Sunday, February 20, 2011

Update on Removal of St. Trinity Murals in Haiti



Preparation for removal of fragment of "Last Supper" by Philomé Obin

More than a year after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti, the famed murals at St. Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince have begun to be removed by a team headed up by our frequent collaborator, noted murals conservator Viviana Dominguez, together with RLA director Rosa Lowinger. We are working under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution’s Haiti Cultural Recovery Project.

Fourteen life-sized murals depicting scenes from the New Testament were painted on the interior walls of the Cathedral in the late 1940s and early 1950s by eight of Haiti’s most celebrated artists. Only three murals survived the January 12, 2010 earthquake--“The Last Supper” by Philomé Obin, “Native Procession” by Préfète Duffaut, and “the Baptism of Christ” by Castera Bazile, and these were severely damaged.

The onsite work was preceded by offsite testing to determine the paints and binders used on the surface and the composition of the underlying wall mortar. Fragments from each mural were sent to the Getty Conservation Institute and the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute for analysis. Tests revealed that the murals were painted using egg tempera on top of a very thin concrete render. The paint is powdery and efflorescing in places. The mortar showed severe fractures and displacements. We concluded that the best method for saving the murals was to detach the surface painting and render using the stacco method.

Our team is working with Junior Norélus and Joseph Junior Racine, two graduates of the Ecole Nationale des Arts in Port-au-Prince. To date we have cleaned the mural surfaces, have began poulticing the salts from the Obin mural, have fully faced and removed the Duffaut mural and have begun facing the Obin mural, which will be removed in the coming weeks.

The project is organized by the Smithsonian Institution with the Government of Haiti, Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Presidential Commission for Reconstruction, in partnership with the U.S. President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The project is supported by the U.S. Department of State through US AID, the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Broadway League and Broadway community. Additional funding has been provided by, Affirmation Arts Fund, Peggy Burnet, National Haitian Art Society, Macondo Gallery, Waterloo Center for the Arts, Friends of the Art Center, Jerome and Thao Dodson. Program partners include the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation, La Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), UNESCO and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.

See more photos below:




Application of facing onto "Native Procession" by Préfete Duffaut



Transfer of Duffaut mural fragment from wall to cleaning tables




Conservators Dominguez and Lowinger test the removal of the facing.

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