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Wadsworth Atheneum Lighting Restoration and Replication Complete

Wadsworth Atheneum Lighting Restoration and Replication Complete

Founded in 1842 by Daniel Wadsworth, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is one of the oldest public art museums in the United States. Construction began in 1842 on the site of the family home of Daniel Wadsworth in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. The museum houses nearly 50,000 works of art spanning from around the world from the last 5,000 years. The Wadsworth Atheneum incorporates five different buildings with varying architectural styles, and all the buildings have recently undergone a renovation.

Grand Light was selected to restore seven original luminaires and fabricate replications of a historic bronze wall sconce based on a 1910 photograph for the Wadsworth Atheneum. The restoration of these historic fixtures included cleaning all dust and surface corrosion, lightly burnishing and blending to existing patina, and the application of museum grade wax. All fixtures were rewired in accordance to UL standards for dry locations.

The replication process included the fabrication of custom mold castings for three components using the lost wax method and an application of patina to closely match original luminaire finish. The original 1910 photograph was used to scrupulously design the details and dimensions to match the original luminaire. Grand Light is honored to take part in the restoration of this paramount New England landmark.



Shown above is a 1910 photograph featuring the original bronze wall sconce that was used as a visual aid in the replication process. The photograph was the only usable visual documentation to determine the original sconce’s dimensions, detail, and finish for replication.


Shown above is a concept drawing of the historic 1910 luminaire created solely from details gathered from a historic photograph. This initial sketch was used to approximate the detailing of the original luminaire. In order to conserve the originals intricate detailing, it was determined that the lost wax method of replication would be utilized.


Shown above is the Shop Drawing used to fabricate the replicated custom sconces. A shop drawing is essential in making an accurate depiction of dimensions and detailing in order to move forward with the construction of patterns.


Shown above are the replicated patterns based on the original luminaire. Patterns were created to accurately replicate the sconce components before production begins. The spiral arms pattern was sculpted in clay while the bobesche and back-plate patterns were carved out of wood.


Shown above are the wax molds being created from the wall sconce pattern components. The three components include the back-plate, bobesche, and arms. Each pattern lays in a rigid outer mold while being soaked in a softer inner mold that forms around the pattern.


Shown above are the wall sconce molds created from the patterns. These molds were encompassed in a layer of wax, known as spruing, to create a ceramic shell around the mold. Once the ceramic shell has been allowed enough time to harden, the shell is heated until the wax mold inside melts and seeps out leaving the ceramic shell hollow.


Shown above are the ceramic shells that melted bronze was poured into. Before the melted bronze is poured, each hollow shell is heated to prevent shattering due to extreme difference in temperature. Melted bronze was then poured into each shell to create a casting for each replicated component. The shells are then cooled as the metal phases from liquid to solid before removal.


Shown above are fabricated back-plates after successfully removing the ceramic shells. Each shell is hammered away to release the rough casting of each component. The sprues, which are excess metal parts created through the melted metal pouring process, were cut off.


Shown above are fabricated components after all excess casting pieces have been removed. Any pits or stubs in the metal are meticulously filed down and polished leaving a smooth, consistent surface.


Shown above is a back-plate receiving an application of a hot patina. Each component is heated while a brush is used to first apply a weaker base coat followed by an application of a stronger base patina. Clean and consistent brush strokes are used to apply a unique custom formula to create the perfect shade of statuary bronze.


Shown above are two back-plates after a hot statuary bronze patina application. After numerous patina applications, the components each receive multiple coats of wax. Careful attention must be paid to the finishing; allowing the base coat to get too thick or the metal too hot will cause the finish to flake during wax application, creating inconsistencies in the finish.


Shown above is a replicated wall sconce being wired and assembled by a Grand Light artisan. The sockets are installed at the top of each arm within the bobesche. Wires from the socket are then fed through the arms of the sconce down through the decorative collar, back-plate and mounting plate.


Shown above is a completed lost wax replication of a historic bronze wall sconce based off of a 1910 photograph.


Shown above is the original historic bronze wall sconce in comparison to the completed custom replicated bronze wall sconce.


Shown above are two custom replicated bronze wall sconces installed at the Wadsworth Atheneum.


Shown above is a pre-restoration luminaire in its original location at the Wadsworth Athenuem.


Shown above is a luminaire disassembled and cataloged upon arrival at the Grand Light facility to begin the restoration process. The luminaire components were rinsed and then hand-wiped with a cloth to remove any residue. The cleaned area is then thoroughly inspected, and the cycle is repeated if necessary.


Once the luminaire was cleaned, it was then inspected for any discrepancies in the finish which were then lightly burnished and blended to existing patina. The entire luminaire then received multiple coats of protective museum grade wax which was meticulously applied by Grand Light artisans.


Shown above is the luminaire being rewired by a Grand Light artisan. Each artisan must feed the wire through a narrow passage in each arm before connecting the wire to a socket. Every wire is cut to a specific length to provide enough slack to run though the entire fixture after every section is reassembled.


Shown above are the two beautiful luminaires after restoration has been completed.


Shown are the restored luminaires after re-installation in their original location atop large stone posts in the Wadsworth Atheneum.

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