The Nelson Pediment is an enormous memorial made of Coade stone set in a tympanum in the King William block of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.
Designed by Benjamin West and sculpted with Joseph Panzetta, the 10 x 40 foot alto-relievo piece is a stunning allegorical depiction of Admiral Lord Nelson. At the centre, is an epic Britannia, the moment she receives the body, while a great bearded Neptune and his attendant Tritons appear to command the scene. Winged Victory, also present, supports the weight of the dead hero, and the British lion roars his dominion of the seas above a tablet inscribed, ‘CXXII BATTLES’. The grief of the nation is represented by the weather beaten face of the British Seafarer, broken with sorrow, and a disconsolate trio of sisters, personifications of the English, Scottish and Irish Kingdoms, lament together amidst frothing marine horses, ocean washed rocks, cannons and sinking ships.
In 2015, DBR Conservation was commissioned by the Greenwich Foundation to investigate the Pediment’s current condition, to see how earlier treatments had fared, and to secure its stability with new repairs. Additionally, cleaning trials were performed (from simple mechanical to steam cleaning to solvent based poulticing techniques) to remove the engrained atmospheric pollution.
The most exciting aspect of the project was the promising results of the cleaning trials with the Nd: YAG Compact PHOENIX Laser System (Lynton Lasers Ltd), which emits infrared light with a wavelength of 1064 nm.
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