Watch our conservation technicians restoring murals at The Sherry Netherland Hotel. The ceiling mural in the lobby is based on Raphael’s frescoes in Cardinal Bibbiena’s Loggetta at the Vatican Palace (Vatican City, Rome). The style was popularized during the Renaissance and the Neoclassical period and was beautifully recreated at the Sherry Netherland in the 1920s by artist Joseph Aruta.
In April of 2013, we conducted the investigative study. Utilizing both chemical and mechanical means, we removed several small squares or “exposure windows,” of overpaint to reveal the surprisingly intact murals underneath. Once we fully understood the original materials, we realized that a full restoration would be possible. We then tested methods and techniques to develop our plan for conserving the murals.
The process of exposure has revealed that under the current white layers of paint the mural was covered with two separate layers of faux decorative ashlar stone patterns, painted in dark beige with light beige joint lines. In between these layers of paint were several applications of skim coating and patching composed of various materials. The outermost layer is most effectively removed with a scalpel inch by inch, whereas the underlying (non-original) oil layers are successfully removed chemically. A variety of solvent gels and strippers will be utilized through careful application by the conservators and conservation technicians. The final layers of post-historic paint will be delicately removed with solvent and swabs, cleared with mineral spirits.
Currently, there are 5-10 conservation technicians working in a completely concealed, elevated workspace over the lobby. Despite the scaffolding, the lobby has remained fully operational through the entire project. Luckily, the timing with winter holidays has afforded the hotel a unique opportunity to decorate the scaffolding for the season, masking the workspace so effectively you could hardly tell what was happening above your head in the lobby. By the time we’re finished, in early 2014, we estimate that the restoration of the 860 square foot ceiling will have taken about total of 4,000 hours to complete.
Head Conservators – Kumiko Hisano and Gillian Randell
Conservation Technicians – Silvano Alonso, John Coburn, Jaime Dobbertin, Erma Duran, Elizabeth Iacullo, Neela Wickremesinghe