The ‘Walbaum Cabinet’, as it has come to be known, is an outstanding example of German furniture design from around 1600. Now, after extensive restoration, the piece can be displayed to the public once again. The exquisite cabinet was used to house collected artefacts and boasts decorative elements made of ebony as well as intricate silver reliefs from the workshop of the Augsburg goldsmith Matthias Walbaum.
Once the silverwork had been removed by the metal conservator, themain priority was to conserve the wood by preventing any further loss of substance.
In the first phase, initial tests were carried out, the results of which would later help to determine what restoration measures needed to be undertaken. Samples were taken for the analysis of the surface coating, for example. A prepared cross-section of the sample was examined under a microscope in both visible light and UV light, which revealed transparent substances in the layers of varnish. Fourier-transform-infrared-spectroscopy was undertaken at the Rathgen Forschungslabor to determine its chemical composition, while a dendrochronological analysis provided information on the age and origins of the wood. Finally, X-ray images of the object made hidden structural elements visible, giving insights into the techniques and traditional methods used by craftsmen at the time it was built. These analyses not only assess the original condition of the piece but also demonstrate how it changed over the course of time.
Once the analyses were complete, restoration of the object began. Loose pieces of the veneer were reattached and losses, profiles, and architectural features were restored. Traces of adhesive under the silver reliefs had to be removed, and damage caused by the metal fittings repaired.
Due to extensive renovation work, the Museum of Decorative Arts will remain closed from 2 January 2012. It will reopen at 21 November 2014.
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