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Conservation of sculpture and reliefs from the Ince Blundell garden temple

Ince Blundell garden temple

About the sculptures and reliefs

The Ince Blundell garden temple was built in 1792, to house Henry Blundell’s ever-expanding collection of classical sculpture. He had acquired much of it during the late 1770s whilst on the Grand Tour. The building and the sculptures outside had suffered seriously from the effects of pollution and weathering. After 200 years they were starting to disintegrate.

The sculpture conservation department at the Conservation Centre were involved in all aspects of the removal, conservation and re-instatement of the sculptures from both inside and outside of the building. As the building is listed all sculptural elements had to be either kept in-situ, or if they were in serious danger, replaced with copies. The reliefs on the front of the building were too important to suffer any further damage.

relief panel with classically dressed figures covered in dirt relief panel with classically dressed figures

Roman relief before and after laser cleaning


This relief of a Roman family was sited externally above the door of the garden temple. A thick black pollution crust had accumulated and a serious weakening of the surface had occurred. The black pollution was removed to reveal the original surface detail. This allowed the friable areas to be consolidated and stabilised. Laser cleaning was the only viable way of cleaning this sculpture. It did not disturb the weakened surface and preserved the original detail that lay beneath the thick pollution layer.

Once cleaned, this and other sculptures were copied or laser scanned and reproduced in marble. The new marble copies were then patinated to resemble aged marble. The accurate copies are now exposed to the harsh environment and the originals can be safely housed in a controlled environment.

relief sculpture of a lion  exact copy of the relief sculpture of a lion

Classical relief after laser cleaning and a modern copy produced by non-contact replication