York Art Gallery is situated in Exhibition Square in the historic centre of York. This grade II listed building was constructed in 1879 and restored and extended in 1952.
The main south east facing façade of the building has two tiled panels inset at each corner, both of which had suffered significant deterioration over time.
The conservation of the tiled panels was carried out by the University of Lincoln, during July 2014
The two panels, are entitled ’The Death of Leonardo da Vinci’ and ‘Michelangelo shows his statue of Moses’. It is possible that the scenes were painted in situ. The main problem with the panels was the loss of the detail to the painted scenes, particularly the panel on the left, which had no colour along the right side and the inscription at the base of the panel had almost completely disappeared. Both were covered in bleached out 'splashes'.
The tiles had suffered from dirt and pollutant deposits on the surface and were covered in a small amount of bird guano. Our intention was to clean the panels, first with gentle brushing and then a wet cleaning method, however wet cleaning tests revealed the colours were not bound to the surface and therefore we had to proceed with much caution!
Once the panels were cleaned to an acceptable level we began retouching the missing detail so that in future the panels can be read as originally intended. This was achieved using standard acrylic paints, which dry very quickly, do not fade over time and are relatively resistant to the effects of weathering. The missing inscription was reinstated using stencils copied from existing lettering and then lightly pencilled over the missing areas. Colour was applied to match the original and in other areas of loss.
Finally a coating of microcrystalline wax was applied to protect the surface of the tiles from the elements.