The Victoria & Albert Museum’s Sgraffito

DBR Conservation

The exterior façade of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Henry Cole Wing was designed and executed by F. W. Moody in 1872, and is an extremely important example of British attempts to revive a Renaissance plaster technique called sgraffito.

This technique creates decorative patterns and figurative ornamentation by incising the plaster’s surface to reveal a base of contrasting colour below. Moody and his contemporaries used a variety of sgraffito methods and experimented with different approaches and recipes, some more successful than others.

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In 2012, DBR Conservation worked in tandem with DBR London and the V&A’s Estate Department on urgent conservation work of the delicate surface which, in places, had detached completely. On completion of the conservation cleaning, repairs and repointing of the terracotta and brickwork, the sgraffito panels were stabilised and secured using lime grouting and micro-pinning.

Nanolimes and pigmented shelter coats were used on the severely eroded top elevation which allowed for the decorative imagery to be reinstated while protecting the original plaster work underneath.

The facade will be visible to the public for the first time in decades after the completion of the V&A’s Exhibition Road Building Project in 2016.

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