Fine Art Conservation: The Breakers Ceiling

Newport, Rhode Island

The Breakers dining room project was completed in several stages. It involved the cleaning and conservation of the fine art ceiling painting "Aurora Welcoming the Dawn,"  along with conservation of the adjacent wall murals and gold leaf.  Additional work involved the cleaning and inpainting of the faux marble overmantel and the wallpaper and decorative paint restoration around the mantel. 

The conservation of the ceiling painting, originally installed by Allard et Fills in 1895, began following confirmation of active molds visible as spots on the paintings and murals. The actual work of mural cleaning was completed using a dilute cleaning solution applied with cotton balls. Using each ball to clean an approximately 1 inch square area insured that only the dirt and mold were removed and not the paint

While the fireplace mantle was executed in an elaborately carved marble, the overmantle was completed in a matching faux marble. Over time, this faux marble had absorbed soot and dust.  Persistent flashing leaks had also degraded the paint in isolated areas, revealing the white plaster substrate. After tests on the plaster revealed no excess alkalinity, it was decided to remove the acidic soot layer and repair the area of missing paint. A dilute non-ionic detergent solution successfully removed all the soot and dust, making the inpainting of the missing paint much easier.


ARCHITECT: Richard Morris Hunt, 1895