The Stewart Memorial is a mausoleum constructed of rustic ashlar Quincy granite with a bluestone façade and adorned with two bronze bas-reliefs. Designer Stanford White and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens created the tomb, which stands on a knoll in Green-Wood Cemetery, long considered one of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries. It was commissioned by Isabella Stewart Gardner for her young son. Her sadness at his passing is said to be the impetus for her trips to Europe that lead to her vast art collection now in her museum in Boston.
The bronze reliefs, typical of Saint-Gaudens’ androgynous angels, had suffered from surface corrosion and deterioration that is typical of outdoor bronze statuary located in urban environments. The west relief was separating from the stone. A previous repair effort had used anchoring cement in an effort to secure the panel, which had resulted in an acceleration of corrosion and disfiguration to the structure.
Our conservators treated the work as an early part of a cemetery-wide effort to preserve the many historic monuments. The west bronze relief was detached from the mausoleum, cement patching removed, and the bronze then remounted. All bronzes were cleaned of soiling and loose corrosion products with pressurized water and a conservation grade detergent solution, followed by a coating with a custom hot applied wax. The lime discoloration was reduced by honing with a carborundum stone. Maintenance recommendations were made to Green-Wood employees so they can continue to care for the memorial.