Conserving stringed sculpture: The treatment of Henry Moore’s Mother and Child, 1939

Nicole Ledoux

Abstract

Objects with tensioned string elements are found in many types of collections, ranging from fine arts sculpture to scientific and historic models. Deterioration and damage to these vulnerable elements in the form of fraying, breakage, and loss of tension can render these pieces undisplayable. This article presents the treatment of Henry Moore’s stringed sculpture Mother and Child in the collection of the Harvard Art Museums.

Upon entering the collection, the string elements of Mother and Child were in very poor condition, with 11 of the 12 strings broken and one missing. This article discusses aspects of the sculpture’s fabrication and outlines the various considerations involved in deciding whether to replace or repair the damaged strings. It also describes in detail the development and execution of a treatment technique for repairing the original strings using wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue paper.

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