As promised in the previous posting on the condition of Nefrina’s Funerary Mask, here is the next installment on its conservation treatment. Because this treatment was so involved, in this post I am just going to talk about the temporary stabilization of the exterior and the repairs on the interior of the mask.
1) Facing: Facings are often used by conservators to temporarily stabilize surfaces so that an object can be handled and other structural problems can be addressed first. In this case, the flaking and cracked paint on the mask had to be temporarily stabilized before the tears and deformed areas could be repaired. I used Japanese tissue that I adhered onto the exterior of the surface so that the object could be safely handled and the interior examined.
2) I made a temporary support to hold the mask safely so I could flip it over, remove the storage mount made in 1993, and examination the interior.
3) Removal of the previous treatment: In 1993 patches of spun-bonded polyester had been adhered onto the interior. I had to remove some of these so that the object could be reshaped and the tears aligned.
4) Humidification: I humidified and reshaped distorted and crushed areas using localized humidification with our Preservation Pencil. The preservation pencil allowed me to apply warm moisture to discrete areas of the object (you can see the stream of moisture coming through the orange nozzle in the picture below). Once an area is humidified, it becomes soft and pliable. The humidified area is reshaped by supporting it with ethafoam inserts or with rare earth magnets and ethafoam padding. This support is critical to maintain the correct shape as the humidified area losses moisture and stiffens again.
5) The tears were repaired from the inside using Japanese tissue patches toned with acrylic paint and adhered using methyl cellulose.
Once the interior problems were addressed, I could return to the instability on the exterior parts of the mask, but you will have to wait for my next post to hear about that!
– posted by Tessa de Alarcon