Historic Stone Fireplace Mantels

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

Removal & Installation Of 16th–19th Century Fireplace Mantels At The MET’s British Decorative Arts Gallery

The three historic British stone fireplace mantels—Norfolk, Chesterfield, and Heathcote—date from the late 16th to the early 19th century. They are part of the collection exhibited in the British Decorative Arts Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

In preparation for a gallery restoration and reconfiguration we were contracted to assess the condition of each fireplace mantel and develop a disassembly and reinstallation plan. The goal was to study and document their overall conditions and structural systems. We performed a non-destructive investigation of locate assembly seams and internal reinforcing to determine best means and methods of removing and relocating the works. Our conservators studied the mantels and provided a detailed assessment for each mantel including photographic documentation, description, AutoCAD drawings, observed conditions, and recommendations for safe removal, storage and reinstallation at a later point in time.

After acceptance by the client, the work was implemented. Norfolk and Heathcote were disassembled along original stone assembly joints, and stabilized on pallets before being transferred to storage. The much larger Chesterfield mantel, with its marble Caryatids, was deemed too fragile to withstand disassembly and reassembly. A custom designed aluminum transfer frame was fabricated and installed inside and around the mantel. After carefully undermining of the stones, the entire mantel was successfully hoisted and set on a pallet to be transferred to secure storage.

In March 2020 our conservation team carefully reinstalled two of historic stone mantels in a dramatic new display at the British Decorative Arts Gallery just prior to its reopening.