P Mac were called upon to carry out some restoration work on an exquisite Georgian house in the Ballsbridge area. The original brief was to carry out façade cleaning, repairs and anti-graffiti protection externally. However, as the client worked with us and realised the scope of our skills, we were contracted to carry out restoration works on some internal decorative features as well.
There were four decorative plaster relief panels in the hallway, covered in white paint. We initially applied a poultice to the panels to gently remove the paint. Once the compress was removed, a very thick layer of cement and water was revealed. This would indicate a cover up of fractures in the panels. We then proceeded to very gently remove the cement layer and the true beauty and detail of the panels began to appear. Once past the cement layer, we removed approximately 20 layers of paint! Each layer had to be painstakingly removed with fine tools and compresses.
Fine examples of stucco plaster relief
We discovered the decorative panels were fine examples of stucco plaster reliefs, from a tradition established in 18th century Dublin by renowned stucco workers such as the Lafrancini brothers and Michael Stapleton. The panels we unearthed depicted the four seasons, a classical inspiration for Dublin’s neoclassical stuccoists. The panels are cast in fairly high relief showing groups of “putti” – classical figures of small nude boys – playfully engaged in activities associated with the four seasons.
You can imagine the excitement of our restoration team, let alone the clients, upon this discovery. It’s not every day you unearth a masterpiece and get the opportunity to restore it to its original splendour. We have a master craftsman on our team, Michal, who revelled in the restoration process. Although the panels were in fairly good shape there were some putti with missing fingers and other disfigurements. One of the panels had one half that had been completely restored at some stage but to a very bad finish. This poor repair had to be removed completely and Michal set about re-sculpting that half to match the original to the very last detail.
Once all the panels were returned to their original splendour and all repairs completed, Michal coated the panels using a technique called patina which gave the panels a bronze finish. The final results are stunning and we are delighted to have been given the chance to work on such a wonderful project!
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