Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Conspirators

Perhaps Lew Wallace's best-known painting (not that he was famous for art), The Conspirators made the journey from storage to the Study

Movers from Red Ball Moving carry in the custom-made box containing The Conspirators.

Museum staff and volunteers lift the oil painting atop the bookcases in the Study.

Museum Director Larry Paarlberg and Collections Manager Amanda McGuire examine the placement before descending their ladders. The current location not only shows off the painting but also what some of Wallace's artwork would have looked like next to the original colors of the Study interior.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Back Home in Indiana

Lew Wallace's Artifacts are finally back in the Study! Museum staff and volunteers will now spend days unpacking artwork and arranging furniture to reflect Wallace's use of the building.

The furniture, including the grandfather clock, are not in place, but at least they are in the building!

Movers from Red Ball Moving Company, generous supporters of the Museum, prepare to move Il Pensiero (The Thinker) to its pedestal.

Museum Director Larry Paarlberg adjusts the "Girl with Goats" majolica vase in its corner. The colors in the ceramics blend well with the newly restored wall in the southeast corner of the Study!

Associate Director Amanda Wesselmann and Grounds Manager Deb King unveil "The Turkish Princess," a gift to Wallace from Sultan Abdul Hamid II. She is now back in her familiar place above the bookcases.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Uncovering the Past

It's always thrilling to scrape away the covering of years and unveil more of what General Wallace's surroundings looked like when he lived among them.  The past weeks have offered exciting glimpses into both the interior and exterior of the General's study, through the tireless work of some true professionals.

Brian Fick and Mary Yeager of Acanthus Arts in Indianapolis have been hard at work conserving the beautiful decorative paint in places inside the study, and it's been amazing to watch the original colors begin to blossom.  The anteroom just inside the front door is swathed in deep jewel tones, and the dome now has a wide stripe of original paint uncovered down to the bookcases.  Visitors can now see not only the musical motif in the southeast corner of the dome, but the stylish method by which the paint fades from a deep green to a light silvery tone at the dome.

The colors of the plaster frieze just under the dome are being replicated according to the paint analysis done by Matthew Mosca of Washington D.C. in March.  It's easy to see how brilliant General Wallace's dome would've looked when all of the electric lights were on!

Outside, archaeologists from Weintraut & Associates in Zionsville are working with students from the University of Indianapolis to uncover General Wallace's backyard reflecting pool.  Over weeks of painstaking work, they have found the brick perimeter topped by capstones lying just inches below the surface of the lawn.

Keep an eye on this blog for further developments as we continue to work in restoring General Wallace's "pleasure house for his soul" to its original splendor!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Paint Restoration Continues

Exciting work continues here at the Study as our conservators, Brian Fick and Mary Yeager from Acanthus Arts in Indianapolis, uncover and restore more incredible decorative paint inside the historic building's dome.

Brian is spending his day 30 feet in the air, uncovering layer by layer of paint to get to the original design, described by Ella Kostanzer in 1900 as the "implements of war."  So far, he's uncovered a beautiful musical motif in the corner, featuring a drum flanked by  skin-covered mallets, with a fife and sheets of music behind, accented with laurel leaves.  We believe there might be musical scenes in each of the corners, with more military-themed decoration along the sides of the dome.  Here's a progression of the work so far:

We'll continue to update as the restoration progresses.  Many thanks to the Montgomery County Community Foundation for providing the funds for this fascinating project!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ella Was Right

Ella Kostanzer visited the General's Study around 1900, and described, among other things, a scene on the domed ceiling that contained "implements of war". Because she is the only one to recount this detail, staff and visitors alike have long hoped she was right but didn't want to rely on her testimony too heavily. Today, a pair of paint conservators arrived on the scene to attempt to expose some of that original design.

Sure enough, there appear to be shields and laurel leaves in a design that incorporates not only the shades of green found in the paint analysis, but also rust colors and silvery grays as well. This is part of a 3-foot-wide path the conservators plan to expose from the skylight to the tops of the bookcases. What a wonderful discovery!