🔎 UNIDENTIFIED Beethoven Plaster Bust

ANTIQUARIAN

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I found this piece online for $25, I'll be picking it up tomorrow in Toronto. It’s made of heavy solid plaster, so I'll probably try washing it with hot water and dish soap to remove the stains. Following that, I'm thinking about painting it with ‘flat’ white primer house paint. It measures 12” tall x 6” wide.

Just curious as to your opinions on how you think I should restore it, if at all?

Thanks,
Dave

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ANTIQUARIAN

ANTIQUARIAN

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Cleaning is one thing, but painting it is something else. Usually that decreases it's value.
Yeah, I hear you bud.
My concern is... what if the surface staining doesn't come off with soap & water, then what? :dontknow:
 
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RW

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If it is definitely plaster then it is same material as most swimming pools and could probably handle a strong chemical cleaning. Key word being PROBABLY, as I'm just guessing, but it's a good size to soak in a 5 gallon bucket of bleach solution for as long as it takes... I haven't tried that before or even researched it, just something I might try, and I might ruin it as well ha. I would have bought it too and would be wondering the same thing. Nice.
 
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RW

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Sorry apparently horrible idea to get it wet. Looks like cotton swabs with distilled water and a little detergent is what "they" recommend. Good luck. Hopefully you don't have to paint it. Maybe another layer of extremely thinned out plaster? Maybe not!
 
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Red-Coat

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Before you proceed, you need to determine whether or not the surface is bare plaster, or has been sealed and, if so whether the sealant is water-sensitive. Plaster busts were sometimes finished with an unobtrusive durable waterproof coating or a less durable wax/resin water-sensitive coating to simulate a patina.

If it’s bare plaster, or you aren’t sure, confine yourself to ‘dry-cleaning’. Bare plaster is very porous and will readily absorb water, taking any water-soluble dirt below the surface where it is then almost impossible to remove. It may also create ‘tide-marks’ as the plaster dries out again, worsening the appearance rather than improving it. Any stubborn dirt or marks that can’t be removed by brushing or wiping with a dry cloth (and a cotton bud for difficult to reach areas) can usually be removed with an artist’s eraser. These are available as ‘kneadable’, which can be moulded like putty into shapes to help reach the tricky areas. Work slowly and carefully when using an eraser because they can be so effective that the cleaned areas come up a startling white compared to the areas that you don’t need to clean or need only light cleaning.

It it’s finished plaster and you’re sure the coating is not water-sensitive, in addition to the methods above, you are usually safe to use ‘wet-cleaning’ but do not immerse it or put it under a running tap. Use cotton wool balls and/or cotton buds moistened (not dripping wet) with distilled or filter-purified water containing a small amount of washing-up liquid. Rub gently, rotating the cotton as you go so that you actually remove the dirt rather than just spread it around.

After cleaning (and a day or two or drying in a warm place if necessary) you could give it some future protection with a couple of coats of waterproof artist’s acrylic spray, available in aerosol cans, but make sure to get one with a matte finish to avoid an unnatural appearance.

If you’re unsure about whether it’s coated or bare or can’t ascertain the nature of the coating, try some test swabbing on the underside of the base. That should give you some idea. Since these kinds of busts were mass-produced and can be picked up for under $50, unless there are any markings which suggest it’s a superior-crafted item you won’t be losing much value even if you paint it. But I would suggest that just slapping some white household paint on it without any preparation or priming isn’t likely to give you a very satisfactory finish. Especially not if you brush it on rather than spray it on.
 
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ANTIQUARIAN

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Thank you so much for the great advice guys, this is exactly the type of information I need. :occasion14:
I already own a couple of other busts, one that I inherited through my grandparents. I just dodn't want to destroy this piece by over restoring it. I'm also aware that as a 'collectible' it will only ever be worth what someone like me will pay for it and in this case, it was only $25. :laughing7:

Here's a pic of a couple of busts I currently have. The plaster Beethoven bust I bought in 1988. It was displayed high up on a corner shelf covered in dust in an old piano store in Toronto. The gold bust is made of plaster. Our family story, is that my grandfather found it in someones trash on the way home from work in the 1950s. My aunt remembers him repainting it gold when he got it home. :tongue3:

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Thanks again for your help guys, I'll post a better pic of the new bust when I get home.
 
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Red-Coat

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The gold bust is made of plaster. Our family story, is that my grandfather found it in someones trash on the way home from work in the 1950s. My aunt remembers him repainting it gold when he got it home.

Very nice busts.

In case you didn’t know, the bust on the right is loosely copied from the English sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey’s rendition of the Scottish novelist, poet and playwright Sir Walter Scott in memoriam to his death in 1832.

The marble original is in the library of Abbotsford House in Scotland where Scott lived. There’s also a replica in bronze in Victoria Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia erected in tribute by the North British [an alternative way of saying ‘Scottish] Society of Halifax, also known as the “Scots Club”.

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ANTIQUARIAN

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Very nice busts.

In case you didn’t know, the bust on the right is loosely copied from the English sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey’s rendition of the Scottish novelist, poet and playwright Sir Walter Scott in memoriam to his death in 1832.

The marble original is in the library of Abbotsford House in Scotland where Scott lived. There’s also a replica in bronze in Victoria Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia erected in tribute by the North British [an alternative way of saying ‘Scottish] Society of Halifax, also known as the “Scots Club”.

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That's it exactly! I can never remember the name of the gold bust... Sir Walter Scott! :laughing7: Thank you so much for the information Sir, as always your assistance is genuinely appreciated.

As you mentioned, it’s finished plaster and the coating is water-sensitive. In fact it came off completely when I rinsed it in the kitchen sink with dish soap. warm water and a soft brush.

The piece was very dirty and stained when I first saw it. The way I look at it now, is that I have a blank canvas to work with. I'm going to let it dry thoroughly for a week or so, then decide whether I will give it a couple of coats of waterproof artist’s acrylic spray, as you suggested or if I'll repaint it with flat white ceiling paint.

Here are some pics of the bust before I cleaned it and after.
Thanks again for your help and the pics Red-Coat. :thumbsup:

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Red-Coat

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You're welcome Dave, and (haha) I completely forget to point out the first bust was Mozart not Beethoven. There's much dispute about which composer had the greatest classical record. I'm with the Liverpool Poet, Roger McGough:

Greatest Classical Record
The greatest classical record must be either Beethoven’s leap over three baby grands at a 21st party in Zurich, or J.S. Bach’s eating of 55 fried frankfurters at a frankfurter festival in Frankfurt. Mozart, of course, claims to have run the 100 metres in 9.8 seconds when he was seven years old. But he was always saying things like that. Wrote good tunes but he was a right bighead.
[from ‘Sky in the Pie’ by Roger McGough]


Good luck with the restoration and hope it turns out to your satisfaction.
 
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ANTIQUARIAN

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Thanks again for your help my friend. :thumbsup:
I'm going to let the piece dry completely for a week or so, mainly because after giving it a bath yesterday, it felt cold and damp to the touch even after I towel dried it.

I'll let you know what I decide to do.
Dave
 
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ANTIQUARIAN

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a light bleach solution
Thanks for your advice Mac. :thumbsup:

Thanks again for your comments and ideas guys, in all honesty, I'm still on the fence about what I should do here. Also, I understand through historical research that Mozart was extremely self-conscious of his pock-marked face. This was apparently the result of a severe case of Chicken Pox when he was younger, and not the result of consorting with Ladies of the Night.
I'm just pulling your leg about the 'Chick Pox'. :laughing9:

Here are a couple of pics I took this morning (Wednesday) of how the bust now looks after drying for 3 days. It’s much lighter in colour and isn’t cold and damp to the touch anymore.
 

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