AUSTRIA - Imperial furniture, Wien

tabulka zidle

Address:
Austria
Description of work: Restoration work
Conservation work
Restoration of upholstery
Investor:
National Heritage Institute, Regional branch Brno
Contractor: GEMA ART GROUP a.s.
Implementation: 04/2006-06/2006

 

 
PHOTOGALLERY:
Work in progress Chair - after conservation Chair -  before restoration Work in progress Work in progress Sofa - work in progress Sofa - after restoration Sofa - after restoration Biedermeier style - after restoration Imperial furniture - Biedermeier style Imperial furniture - after restoration Rattan Baroque chairs Chair - after restoration Restoration of chair from the era of the Second Rococo Chair - after restoration Restoration of chair from the era of the Second Rococo Restoration of chair from the era of the Second Rococo Fretwork - work in progress

  • History
  • Restoration work
  • More information

In the background story of this collection of the Imperial seating furniture tells a complicated historical tale. The set of armchairs, chairs and sofas, which according to preserved archive material numbered 338 items, was originally located at the Castles Schönbrunn and Hofburg in Vienna. Some pieces came from the summer residence of the Emperor Franz II in Baden and from the castles Laxenburg, Hof and Hetzendorf.
During 1944 the Allied forces intensified the bombing raids on the Ostmark, as Austria was known after Hitler's Anschluss in March 1938 and the occupying German officials decided to remove the valuable furniture to a safer location. The south Moravian castle Uherčice on the territory of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was chosen as the most suitable destination and owner of the castle Prince Octavian di Collalto et San Salvatore became its temporary custodian. After the defeat of Germany the prince was declared an enemy of the state and accordingly with President Edvard Beneš's Decree no.12/1945 Coll., Confiscation of property of traitors and enemies of the Czech nation, the castle with the furniture were confiscated by the Czechoslovak state. From then on the Uherčice castle was for many years used by the local agricultural cooperative and by the army.
Most of the furniture was stored under highly unsuitable conditions in a damp cellar until the year 2000, when it was thanks to the initiative of the staff of the National Heritage institute moved to a more appropriate storage. The Austrian Republic had already asked for the return of the furniture from the Emperor's rooms in December 1947 but the request was turned down by the Czechoslovak government. During the subsequent years the Czechoslovakian side refused to consider any solution to the situation and for many decades the furniture deteriorated. The year 1989 brought about changes and the matter was comprehensively investigated. The provenance of the furniture was established and several years later the government agreed its return to Austria as soon as possible.
Of the original 338 items of furniture 229 chairs, armchairs, sofas and benches survive, all of them damaged to various degrees by damp and woodworm. Some chairs had legs missing and ornamental woodcarving parts were lost. As the damage was due to inappropriate storage of the furniture exacerbated by the lengthy delays in the repatriation negotiations, the Czech government decided to return the remaining items restored to their initial appearance. The restoration became the responsibility of the National Heritage Institute in Brno, which put the project out to open tender, won by the company GEMA ART GROUP a. s.
The intricacy of the task and the short delivery time meant that the project represented a real challenge for GEMA ART GROUP a. s., which worked in cooperation with several renowned restoration studios in Prague and Brno. Every step was consulted with art historians and restoration specialists from Austria. The company GEMA ART GROUP a. s. at every step endeavoured to meet, within the framework of the restoration remit, the requirements of the Austrian state as far as possible.
Most of the items in the inventory were pieces of upholstered furniture designed for the above-mentioned Austrian imperial residences. Several artistic styles are represented – from the Baroque to Classicist, Biedermeier and the so-called Second Rococo. The furniture dates back to the reign of Emperors Josef II (1780 – 1790), Franz I ( 1792 – 1835) and Franz Josef II (1848–1916), spanning the 18th and 19th centuries. The oldest item is probably the Late Baroque chair with rattan seat from Castle Hof. The Biedermeier chair, which belonged to Archduchess Sophia, mother of Franz Josef II and came from the so-called Blue Court of the Castle Laxenburg built in 1825, is of exceptional value, as is the ten years older Empire chair with lyre motif from the music salon in Hofburg. A considerable part of the inventory comes from the era of the Emperor Franz I. It was made in the Louis XVI Classicist style with straight lines and a white-gold surface finish. Apartments of the Emperor's third wife, Maria Ludovica Beatrice Modena, were furnished in this style. The largest proportion of the lot are sets of seating furniture in the style of the Second Rococo. It has the style's typical white surface finish and richly carved ornamentation gilded with 24-carat gold. The upholstery fabric is often a red damask with pineapple pattern manufactured by the firm Backhausen. From the art-historical point of view, these are fairly common pieces, often purchased for the requirements of the court and factory manufactured in large series.
The extensive restoration work on the Imperial furniture was carried out to a high standard and delivered on schedule, in April 2006. The furniture was subsequently transported to Castle Veveří and officially handed over to the Austrian state.

 The restoration project involved all 229 pieces of the imperial furniture. Tasks carried out under the management of the GEMA ART GROUP a.s. concerned chiefly cosmetic surface repairs, renovation of gilding and sundry carpentry and upholstery work.
Specialist carpenters were employed mainly in the framework and joints examination and repairs. Loose and damaged joints had to be taken apart, rid of the glue residues and re-glued using bone glue. Joints damaged beyond repair were replaced by new ones. As part of the restoration the pieces were chemically treated against woodworm. In the instances of mechanical damage to the woodcarvings, missing portions were remodelled using suitable material.
According to investor's wishes, the work had to be completed within 3 months. To achieve this, the restoration studios employed by GEMA ART GROUP a.s. had to work on the furniture non-stop in a multiple shift pattern. Thanks to this schedule the project was completed on time and the quality of the restoration was not compromised.

Restoration surveys:
Before the restoration could commence, an overall survey of the current state of the furniture and a final identification of all 229 items were carried out in 2005. Labels on the furniture were reconciled with the numbers entered in the archive inventory records held in Austria.
The restoration survey uncovered a presence of woodworm damage in the pieces. The damp condition under which the furniture was stored affected the construction joints and the glue of the veneers. The surface varnish was damaged by oxidization.
Further surveys examined the upholstery and the framework of the furniture. Marks left by previous repairs also came to light during these procedures, especially in the items of the Empire furniture.
As a result of the maltreatment the furniture suffered in the past, there were many instances of mechanical damage, especially on petite carved areas. The missing parts were replaced by copies based on identical or similar undamaged items. Once all the necessary information was gathered, several variations of the restoration process were worked out, depending on the degree of damage. In compliance with the wishes of the Austrian side, in some instances only conservation work was carried out.
All interventions were consulted with the staff of the National Heritage Institute and with Austrian experts.

Restoration of gilded elements:
Several chairs and sofas were decorated with golden polychrome, especially pieces in the Rococo style from the end of the 18th century and the so-called Second Rococo style from the 19th century.
The surface of these items was considerably dirty and in places the gilding was rubbed away. To start with the surfaces were cleaned using oxalic acid and bread balls. Preserved areas of gilding were polished using agate. Parts where the gilding was missing were saturated with shellac.
To follow, cracks and uneven surfaces were repaired using so-called mass, a mixture of bone glue, pulped paper and floated whiting (calcium carbonate). Afterwards another layer of shellac was applied, followed by a layer of red poliment. To conclude the surface was gilded with 24-carat gold. When dry, the gilding was polished using agate.
Addition of missing parts Gilded element - before restoration Gilded element - work in progress Gilded element - work in progress Chair from the era of the Second Rococo - gilded elements after restoration, Hofburg Castle Gilded element - after restoration
Restoration of rattan Baroque chairs:
These are the oldest items in the Imperial collection and their restoration required a highly sensitive approach. The Late Baroque chairs came from the Castle Hof. They have a solid beech frame and are decorated with intricate carvings of floral motifs. The backrest is supported by walnut veneer and the back and the seat have a woven natural rattan surface.
The furniture was until March 2001 stored at the Castle Uherčice. The joints of the chairs were loose and their backs and the woven rattan were considerably damaged. In accordance with the wishes of the Austrian side the furniture was left as much as possible in its original state, only the joints of the frame were straightened. The surface was cleaned using denatured alcohol and linseed oil.
Rattan Baroque chair - before restoration Rattan Baroque chair - before restoration Rattan Baroque chair - before restoration Rattan Baroque chairs - before restoration Rattan Baroque chair - work in progress Work in progress Work in progress Work in progress Rattan Baroque chair -after restoration Rattan Baroque chair - after restoration Rattan Baroque chair - after restoration Rattan Baroque chair - after restoration
Restoration of Empire chairs:
These chairs belonged to the Imperial music salon in Innsbruck and have a remarkably light construction. Their main decorative feature is the carving in the shape of a lyre in their backrests. The solid oak frame and the mahogany veneer date back to 1815. The lyre-shaped carvings had been damaged to such a degree that they had to be replaced by identical copies made from lime wood with mahogany veneer. The surface of the chairs was newly varnished using a shellac politure.
Empire chair - before restoration Empire chair - work in progress Empire chair - after restoration
Chairs from the era of Second Empire:
This is a collection of heavy solid beech seating furniture originating from the years 1850 to 1860. Material of the veneers is mahogany and ebony. When the furniture was taken apart, past repairs were noted. Upholstery fabric bore names of Viennese upholsterers and the dates when they carried out the last repairs.
Some unsuitable later alterations were removed. Damaged areas were treated and repaired with new mahogany and ebony veneers. Loosened parts were re-glued using bone glue and the joints secured with wooden pegs. All new materials were colour harmonized with the original.

Restoration of chair from the era of the Second Rococo:
A large proportion of the collection originates from the era of the Second Rococo and was manufactured around 1848. It mostly consists of chairs with gilded carvings and white surfaces.
It was necessary to take the chairs apart before they could be restored. The frames of some armchairs became loose due to glue loss. Missing parts were replaced by identical copies. Original veneers were cleaned using spirit and rid of old coatings.
The pieces were then given a new shellac finish and polished.
Restoration of chair from the era of the Second Rococo - after restoration Restoration of chair from the era of the Second Rococo - gilded elements before restoration Restoration of chair from the era of the Second Rococo - gilded elements after restoration Chair from the era of the Second Rococo - after restoration Chair from the era of the Second Rococo - before restoration Chair from the era of the Second Rococo - after restoration Chair from the era of the Second Rococo - after restoration Chair from the era of the Second Rococo - after restoration Sofa - era of the Second Rococo - after restoration Sofa - era of the Second Rococo - work in progress Sofa - era of the Second Rococo - after restoration Bench - after restoration
Restoration of Biedermeier style chairs:
This is a collection of various types of seating furniture from the castles Hofburg, Hetzendorf, Laxenburg, Salzburg and the Imperial residence in Innsbruck, which dates back to the years 1825 to 1830. The most valuable example of the Biedermeier style is the chair which belonged to Archduchess Sophia, mother of Franz Josef II and was part of the interior of the so-called Blue Salon, established at the Castle Laxenburg in 1825.
The joints of the furniture were strengthened by injections of bone glue and secured with wooden pegs. The surfaces were cleaned using denatured alcohol and linseed oil.
Biedermeier style chair - after restoration Biedermeier style chair - after restoration Biedermeier style chair - after restoration Biedermeier style chair - after restoration Biedermeier style chair - after restoration Biedermeier style chair - after restoration
Restoration of the Rococo chair from the 18th century:
This is a Rococo style chair with gilded grooves decorated with festoons and leaf and floral motifs. The carpentry and the carvings of the historically valuable piece had been repaired in the past and the chair had been reupholstered. The surface of the chair was quite dirty and the decorative gilding blackened and rubbed off in places.
To start with the loose parts of the polychrome and the gilding were re-attached using bone glue. The chair was then cleaned using oxalic acid and bread balls. The cleaning process revealed marks and splinters caused by an upholsterer's hammer. The damaged areas were repeatedly consolidated using diluted glue.
To follow, the chair was cleaned using politure whitening with Bologna chalk. The surfaces were then smoothed down and tinted with suitable poliment. Any damage in the gilding was remedied using 24-carat gold.

Renovation of the upholstery:
The upholstered furniture exhibited various degrees of damage. In some cases only cleaning and conservation of the fabric was required. Where the damage was more extensive the item was reupholstered using traditional damask fabric manufactured by the firm Backhausen.
All seats were reinforced with hemp webbing and filled with jute and African grass, topped with horse hair to achieve a level surface.