Conserve Art LLC preserved the bronze figure atop the Welles Monument in 2007.
The monument features a female figure in flowing gown and holding a small wreath signifying memory. The statue, marked on the right side of the base, is by Carl Conrads, New England Granite Works’ house sculptor.
Prior to restoration, light green and black corrosion and drip patterns marred the sculpture. Surface pitting and loss of patination was also evident. In preserving the monument, the conservator maintained the aged character of the bronze.
About Bronze Sculptures
Bronze is copper alloyed with other metals including tin, zinc, or lead.
Before the mid-19th century, Americans did not possess the technology to cast bronze. American sculptors either relied on European foundries or had their works carved in marble.
Between 1850 and 1900, America witnessed the development of specialized foundries and the proliferation of trained labor. If not less expensive than marble, bronze was seen as stronger and more practical for public monuments. During the late 19th century, bronze eclipsed marble as the medium of choice.
The Act of Modeling
The act of modeling a sculpture is the creative decision of the artist. The final bronze was usually the shared responsibility of the sculptor and the foundry, including mold makers, casters, chasers etc. They made decisions on surface, color, texture, scale, and form.
To make a bronze sculpture, the foundry begins with an artist’s prototype, often modeled in clay and then cast in plaster. From the clay or plaster model, a mold is fabricated. The mold is used to cast the artwork using molten bronze.
Mold-making and casting is done by skilled workers in a foundry, although overseen by the artist. The artist would oversee the production of the bronze cast, providing final touches by hand and choosing the finish, or patina, that adds color and luster to the bare metal. Patina colors range from green to various hues of brown.
When preserving bronze, conservators either maintain the aged character of the sculpture or create a restored appearance. If little evidence is available regarding the original patina color, conservators often select to preserve the aged green color of the bronze.
The Foundation raises funds to preserve Cedar Hill Cemetery’s historic memorials.
To learn more about our preservation activities visit our Monument Fund page.