Decorative Arts

Decorative art is the term applied to objects that are functional as well as beautiful: as such, these pieces require sympathetic treatment from conservators who have the skills to repair both surface and structural damage.

These objects draw on the very best of Plowden & Smith’s diverse skills, with conservators treating a vast array of smaller decorative pieces, made from materials including gilded gesso, wood, metal, leather, enamel, plastics, glass and exotic veneers.

Our staff are highly skilled in cleaning, filling, replicating missing elements, retouching and re-gilding, as well as stabilising delicate objects with the minimum amount of intervention.

Analysis and testing precedes our treatments where necessary and many of our cleaning solutions and conservation-grade materials will be custom-mixed for an object to ensure impeccable results.

We replicate or painstakingly match missing sections of foxed mirror glass, woods, metals and exotic materials such as tortoiseshell, drawing on the extensive archive of historic materials we’ve built up over half a century.

Plowden & Smith always uses materials that fully comply with current CITES legislation governing the international trade of endangered species.

Featured Project

Tibetan Manuscript Cover

When it arrived at Plowden & Smith, this beautiful, detailed carving was partly hidden under a thick layer of oxidised waxes, general grease and dirt. The back of the panels had abrasions, screw holes and losses of the original paint.

The gilded surface is water sensitive therefore we mixed an appropriate solution that would remove the water-soluble dirt while preserving the original coating. The result was very effective and under UV light it’s possible to see the fluorescence of the shellac layer – evidence that it was neither removed nor damaged by the cleaning. This method is highly controllable, allowing us to reveal even more detail in the panels.

After treatment, we compared before and after pictures using a digital microscope; this showed us that we’d been able to retain the original coating while bringing out the detail of the piece.

Papier-Maché Card Case

The Restoration Man (Sky Discovery Worldwide)

Japanese Okimono

The Restoration Man (Sky Discovery Worldwide)