The case of two urns: Traditional restoration meets modern conservation

Irit Lev


Two large malachite-veneered urns of Russian origin from the mid-19th century, are used as decorative objects at The Shrine of The Bab in Haifa, Israel, one of the holiest sites of the Baha’i Faith. The urns have been on permanent display in The Shrine since 1956. The urns were restored at least once before it was decided to conserve them in 1998. The urns had many malachite veneer losses, some which have been previously compensated with epoxy and plaster fills, and unstable veneer areas were also present around the handles and in the main body. This instability around the handles was due to physically moving the heavy urns, over 200 lbs. each, by using their decorative in-nature handles. It was essential for the urns to be visually complete after conservation, as they were to be displayed in the aesthetically harmonious environment of The Shrine. In a museum environment, a conservator would stabilize loss areas and most probably apply an even color to the fills. In this case, two approaches were used: in the case of one urn, instead of even color, malachite patterns were in-painted to achieve a visual unity with the extant malachite on the urn. For the second urn, a more traditional approach was implemented; one of compensation with new malachite cut and fitted to the loss areas. This presentation will explore the requirements, dilemmas and solutions, and the visual outcome of the treatments.