Recreation and Restoration

Sir John Soane’s Museum, The Blücher Column

Repairs to the painted porphyry finish on the supporting column for the Field Marshall Blücher at the Sir John Soane’s Museum

At the Sir John Soane’s Museum a plaster bust of Field Marshall Prince Gebhard Von Blücher (1742-1819) sits on a column with a porphyry painted finish. 

Over time the painted finish on the base had become damaged and this project involved retouching all missing areas of paint to create a solid looking column for the Field Marshall to be placed upon. 

The images above show the finished column on the left and the damaged painted finish on the right.

The column sits in a corner at the bottom of the stairs outside the Monks Parlour. The front of the column had suffered more damages but the back had blooming on the surface varnish and many small surface paint spots. The texture and colour of the painted finish varied over the column and the front accessible areas of the column had additional colours applied that couldn’t be seen on the back of the column. The original painted finish had the typical marks of having been applied with natural sponges.

The retouching involved mixing a base colour and then applying 5 or 6 layers of different washes with brushes and sponges to create textures that blended in with the surrounding original painted finish.

Finally a varnish with the appropriate level of shine was applied to the retouched areas.

The images above show the work in progress and the layers of colour being added, always mixing and adjusting on the palette to slowly create the correct finish.

I was interested to read on the Sir John Soane’s Museum collections notes that Blücher was a bit of a celebrity and on a visit to London his lodgings were besieged by well wishers and his carriage drawn along the street by adoring throngs.

This bust was commissioned by the Prince Regent (later King George IV). The marble bust of Blücher remains in the Royal Collection.

Blücher was one do the heroes of the defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. The sculpture was by Peter Turnerelli and this plaster version is thought to be the bust exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1815. Turnerelli charged £157.10s for each of the marble busts.