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Laser cleaning terracotta sculptures

Due to the porosity of terracotta, dirt is often well ingrained and very difficult to remove by traditional methods using solvents, which often produce a patchy clean and can often cause the reabsorbing rather than the removal of the dirt. The sculpture conservation department has successfully overcome these problems by using laser cleaning to treat a number of terracotta sculptures, varying in scale and period. Laser cleaning removes ingrained dirt without disturbing the terracotta fabric (which can at times be friable) or the original surface.

We can also remodel missing parts of sculptures, which is often necessary for a brittle material like terracotta. In the examples pictured below, the child's legs from the Jules Dalou maquette 'Mother and Child' were missing. After laser cleaning, replacement legs were copied from a life size sculpture displayed in the V&A Museum, London. There is also the possibility of scanning and replacing sections using the latest scanning technology.

Have a look at images of two terracotta sculptures that we have lased cleaned in the image gallery above.