Track 2: Materials over Time: Points of Change

General Abstract

2 - Understanding the Skeleton – The Interior of 19th Century Pegasus Sculptures

Monday, September 24
2:45 PM - 4:15 PM
Location: BNCC- 101BG

Ever wonder what a 19th Century sculpture looks like on the inside? Neither did anyone else until a crack appeared on the leg of an otherwise healthy-looking Pegasus sculpture. Thus began the investigation to learn what these sculptures looked like from the inside out.
The two colossal bronze Pegasus sculptures flank the entry to Philadelphia’s children’s museum, the Please Touch Museum. The museum building and these sculptures are two of the few remaining remnants from the 1876 Centennial. Each monumental sculpture is of a winged-horse accompanied by a classically dressed mythological muse and measures approximately 16’ tall x 21’ long x 8’ wide standing 15’ in the air on a granite plinth.
Originally cast for the façade of the Vienna Opera House, the Pegasi were removed shortly thereafter due to disdain by the citizens and were destined for the scrap heap. A Philadelphian traveling through Europe heard this story and, together with a group of Philadelphian businessmen, purchased the sculptures for the newly established Fairmount Park. They were shipped to Philadelphia in 1871 and ultimately reassembled at this prominent location for the Centennial. Here they have stood for over 140 years.
After learning of a crack in one of the horse’s legs, the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy authorized Materials Conservation Co., LLC to complete an investigation of the infrastructure of the sculptures. Archival research revealed no record of construction; neither plans nor specifications. Visual and borescopic assessments also yielded scarce information about the interior except to indicate the sculptures were merely held together by extremely corroded iron bolts. This revelation prompted an emergency restoration project.
The sculptures were temporarily stabilized and then disassembled piece by piece beginning by removing each horse head. As each piece was removed more of the mystery of their construction was revealed but it wasn’t until all the disassembled fragments lay in the yard that the cast iron structure and technology could really be understood.
As expected, the infrastructure was no longer able to safely support the sculptures but it was also unable to be removed. A restoration campaign was developed to accommodate the unusual structural elements. Stainless steel splints were made to span areas of severe deterioration. Significant loose cast iron pieces were electrolytically cleaned, galvanized, coated in a high zinc solids paint, and finally coated with a corrosion inhibiting oil. The infrastructure within the base was replaced by stainless steel replicating the former cast iron exactly.
This presentation will walk through the process of disassembly, discovery, restoration and reassembly providing insight into some surprising nineteenth century bronze and cast-iron construction and discuss the modern stainless steel replication elements used for their restoration.

Learning Objectives:

Kate Cowing, AIA

Managing Director
Materials Conservation Co., LLC

Kate Cowing has been working in the field of preservation architecture for more than two decades. She is a both registered architect and a conservator. Having designed and managed dozens of restoration projects while working in architectural offices, six years ago, Kate joined Materials Conservation Co., LLC. (MC) as the managing director. In this role, she oversees MC’s projects which include both design and implementation of conservation treatments to architecture, art and other heritage objects. Most recently, Kate was the project manager for the conservation of Philadelphia’s iconic LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana.


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Lorraine Schnabel

Schnabel Conservation LLC

Lorraine Schnabel is the principal and owner of Schnabel Conservation LLC, a full service materials conservation consulting firm. We work with preservation project teams to diagnose whole building and individual material deterioration problems and identify workable, practical, durable solutions. After nearly thirty years in practice as both a private conservator and as a project manager at John Milner Associates and 1:1:6 Technologies, Lorraine has developed experience with most types of building materials and historic construction systems. Her principle areas of expertise are masonry and materials analysis. She has applied her skills in the preservation of a broad range of building ages and types, from small historic houses to the Baltimore Washington Monument. Currently, she is co-chair of the APT Technical Committee for Materials, and she has served on the board of the Delaware Valley chapter of APT as well. She is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic works, and served in leadership roles in the Architecture Specialty Group and Conservators in Private Practice of that organization. She teaches Building Conservation to students in the College of Architecture and the Built Environment at Jefferson (formerly Philadelphia) University. Lorraine holds a BA in Geology from Pomona College and an MSc. in Historic Preservation from Columbia University.


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2 - Understanding the Skeleton – The Interior of 19th Century Pegasus Sculptures

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