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Fine Art Restoration/Caring for antique bronze with gilt

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Question
Hi --
I have a sculpture that I guess is Chinese or Tibetan and which I think is an antique. Its gilt patina has dark spots. Is there anything I can do about that? And, how should I clean it? I plan on selling it so I don't want to make changes that would be considered destructive to its authenticity.
Thanks.
Daisy

Answer
From your description, this is typical of older gilt bronzes.  No gilt surface is 100% impermeable due to micro-void, and it can also become damaged from handling over time.  This allows oxygen and moisture to interact with the underlying bronze, resulting in galvanic corrosion spots that come through the holes in the gilt surface.
There's nothing that you should do about it.  Have the object professionally appraised first, since you are planning on selling it anyway, then have a qualified objects conservator with experience in Asian gilt objects examine it and propose a treatment.

Paul Storch
Objects Conservator
St. Paul, MN

Fine Art Restoration

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Paul S. Storch

Expertise

I'm happy to answer questions concerning the preservation and conservation of three-dimensional archaeological, ethnographic, historic, technological, and decorative arts objects. My materials expertise includes leather, wood, metals, and composite materials.

Experience

I have close to thirty years experience as a conservator at three different museums and in private practice. I currently work as a collections manager overseeing 40,000 historic objects at over 20 sites around the state, as well as having a private treatment and consultation practice in the Midwest.

Organizations
American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works Minnesota Association of Museums The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections Professional Picture Framers Association

Publications
Journal of the American Institute For Conservation Texas Archaeology University of Texas Conservation Notes Caring for American Indian Objects/Minnesota Historical Society Press The Interpreter/Minnesota Historical Society Journal of Field Archaeology

Education/Credentials
B.A. in Anthropology/Archaeology; M.A. in Anthropology/Museum Studies with a concentration in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation.

Awards and Honors
Recognition certificate from the Institute of Museum Services

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