Historic Mural and Wallpaper Restoration -- The Breakers

Historic Mural and Wallpaper Restoration -- The Breakers
Rhode Island

The Breakers dining room project was completed in several stages. It involved the cleaning and conservation of the fine art ceiling painting "Aurora Welcoming the Dawn,"  along with conservation of the adjacent wall murals and gold leaf.  Additional work involved the cleaning and inpainting of the faux marble overmantel and the wallpaper and decorative paint restoration around the mantel. 

The conservation of the ceiling painting, originally installed by Allard et Fills in 1895, began following confirmation of active molds visible as spots on the paintings and murals. The actual work of mural cleaning was completed using a dilute cleaning solution applied with cotton balls. Using each ball to clean an approximately 1 inch square area insured that only the dirt and mold were removed and not the paint

While the fireplace mantle was executed in an elaborately carved marble, the overmantle was completed in a matching faux marble. Over time, this faux marble had absorbed soot and dust.  Persistent flashing leaks had also degraded the paint in isolated areas, revealing the white plaster substrate. After tests on the plaster revealed no excess alkalinity, it was decided to remove the acidic soot layer and repair the area of missing paint. A dilute non-ionic detergent solution successfully removed all the soot and dust, making the inpainting of the missing paint much easier.

The area surrounding the fireplace posed a different challenge. The plaster surface had been covered with a glazed silver leaf decorative wallpaper. The same roof leaks that had damaged the overmantel had partially dissolved the wallpaper size and destroyed the wallpaper in several places. Since removal of the paper was impossible, it was decided to conserve it in place. After replacing the degraded silver (aluminum) leaf ground, the wallpaper pattern was traced and stencils were cut for each color of the design. Once this was complete, the design could be repainted on the missing areas and then glazed to match the surrounding pattern.

ARCHITECT: Richard Morris Hunt, 1895

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