St. Michael Update!

In my last post, I mentioned that St. Michael’s gilding would be finished in the next several days. And indeed it was; after nine long months of careful work, all of the remaining gold has been secured. And how it shimmers!The next step is structural conservation. Tiffany, Donna, and I have already removed about a dozen metal handmade and machine-made nails from different areas of the sculpture. This step is incredibly important because St. Michael is carved from wood. Wood has a life of its own, breathing and moving with changes in climate. If anything is embedded in the wood that does not move in sync, cracks will result – and that is precisely what has happened to St. Michael. In the centuries since his creation, nails have been inserted to stabilize him, and in fact they have done just the opposite. Once most of the metal inserts are removed, we’ll start in on consolidating fragments and breakage points. After that, the fragments can be reattached and St. Mike will be whole!On Tuesday morning, we began the process of deciding what colors we’ll need for the planned infills for areas of gilding and paint loss. Donna showed Tiffany and me how to add different pigments to a small amount of vinyl spackling to demonstrate each particular hue. Once the samples dry, we’ll decide the different combinations necessary for matching the infill as closely as possible to the surrounding material. With the infills, from a distance the piece will appear as a complete and finished sculpture; as you get closer, it will be clear what has been conserved. This approach stays true to the original intent of the artist and takes into consideration the long, rich life of the piece.On a last note, the sculpture’s owner, Duffy Hecht, visited Scripps to see St. Michael on Tuesday. He has not seen the piece since it was in very bad shape, and this was a chance to show him how much work has been done. Furthermore, Duffy and Donna engaged everyone in a conversation about the future of the piece, i.e., where it will be located and how it will be displayed. It’s so exciting to think that St. Michael will once again be (almost) whole and as impressive as ever!