Thursday, October 7, 2010

Paint Analysis: Expect the Unexpected

Ratio Architects from Indianapolis began the paint analysis by revealing what is underneath the current paint layer. This prelminary test uncovered small pieces of the walls in different places in the Study: the entryway, under the benches by the fireplace, along the flowered frieze, and more.

Surprise! In the entryway of the Study, there's a geometric pattern, like blocks of color. Looking carefully at the photo, going right from the wooden door frame, the test revealed a teal rectangle outlined with black, surrounded by a taupe brown, and finally a thin red line forming another rectangle. The red and black lines seem to continue toward the corner through the splotches of bare plaster.

We thought there might be some decorative painting in the Study, but the last place we expected to find it was the entryway. As Museum Director Larry Paarlberg says, "It's very Victorian. A lot of people at that time were blocking colors on walls, although this is an unusual pattern." Even though it fit with the times, why put such attention in such a small part of the building?

To add to the mystery, the architect did not get all the way up to the dome to see if any decorative painting - such as a military scene or a gradient of color - is there. The current scaffold is not high enough, so he will have to return when a higher scaffold is in place.

In the meantime, we're left to wonder: what kind of pattern did Lew have in the entryway, and how can we best interpret it when we can take tours inside the Study again? And if he painted the entryway decoratively, what may he have done to the more dramatic dome or flowered frieze?

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