Set in the beautiful gardens of Buckingham Palace, the Waterloo Vase is a giant ornamental urn, fifteen foot high, and by some estimates weighing twenty tonnes.
The vase was hewn from a single block of Carrara marble, which was originally admired and reserved by a confident Napoleon in readiness to commemorate his expected victories. Following his fall after the Napoleonic wars, the vase was presented to George IV, then Prince Regent, who commissioned Richard Westmacott to enrich the blank sides with bas-reliefs of the Battle of Waterloo. Although the surface is now severely eroded, one can still find the depictions of George III on his throne, Napoleon unhorsed, and other allegorical figures. The two handles are personifications of defeat and victory.
DBR Conservation carried out essential treatment to the vulnerable surfaces of the vase’s exposed marble.
The conservation work commenced with a thorough cleaning programme to remove the build up of atmospheric pollution, organic debris and embedded biological growth. The conservators then carried out a series of mortar repairs on both areas of great fragility as well as sky facing surfaces that could collect water and other debris.
Areas of extreme risk were consolidated with ammonium oxalate poulticing, a small trial was done with nanolime, and the whole vase was treated with a sheltercoat based on lime, stone and marble dusts, which was delicately brushed back.
The final step was to advice on a winter shelter, which required monitoring equipment and appropriate ventilation.
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