Window Restoration

 

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The In Company with Angels windows were made during a period when much of the best work in glass in the United States was being executed at Tiffany Studios in New York. The glass palette is exceptional in both color and texture. Exquisite folded drapery glass forms the gowns of the angels while heavily rippled glass backed with acid-etched flashed glass define the wings. Jewels and large chunks of dalle glass are placed throughout and add a particular sparkle to the ensemble of windows. The windows were in amazingly good condition considering their age and how long they had been packed away in thin wooden crates and stored in an unheated garage. While the stewards of the windows had the best of intentions, the crating and packing of the windows was woefully inadequate.

A design device used on the angels and many other Tiffany windows is the technique of plating: the mechanical layering of two or more pieces of glass to achieve a desired artistic affect. The multiple layers can be different shapes and have various colors and textures, making plated windows look very different in the evening (when one can see only the reflected color of the innermost layer of glass) and during the day (when one can see the combining of colors and textures as the light pours through the window). Some Tiffany windows have seven layers of plating. While plating is common in opalescent windows from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it can also be found in Arts and Crafts windows and less frequently in neo-Gothic or Gothic Revival windows. Due to their complicated construction, plated windows are extremely difficult to restore and should be handled only by craftsmen with extensive experience with this technique. The tensile stress created by the varying shapes and sizes of the layers can result in serious damage to plated windows if not treated correctly.

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Restoration included documentation, extensive cleaning, edge-gluing, partial re-leading, restoration of wood frames, and the fabrication of new display enclosures.

The angel windows have four layers of plating and will always be installed or displayed so that the viewer can get quite close to them; therefore, we did not want to alter the interior viewing surface. This meant that all dismantling and conservation work had to be completed from the reverse or back side of the windows. This approach required the removal of the layers to get to the back of the front layer of glass to perform the restoration. The work was labor intensive and demanded great care. Broken pieces of glass were removed and carefully edge-glued together with a conservation grade epoxy or silicone. The existing front layer of lead cames and copper foil was maintained; only the lead supporting the backing layers was replaced. As the dirt was removed from both sides of all of the plates, a total of eight glass surfaces were cleaned.

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Here, conservator Kathy Jordan is cleaning the face of the Sardis window at her studio, Art of Glass, in Media, Pennsylvania