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Copper and Bronze in Art: Corrosion, Colorants, Conservation



  • David A. Scott

    Pigments, corrosion products, and minerals are usually considered separately, either as painting materials or as the deterioration products of metals, even though they are often the same compounds. This 190-year review of the literature on copper and its alloys integrates that information across a broad spectrum of interests that are all too frequently compartmentalized. The author discusses the various environmental conditions to which copper alloy objects may be exposed—including burial, outdoor, and indoor museum environments—and the methods used to conserve them. The book also includes information on ancient and historical technologies, the nature of patina as it pertains to copper and bronze, and the use of copper corrosion materials as pigments.

    Chapters are organized primarily by chemical corrosion products and include topics such as early technologies, copper chlorides and bronze disease, the chemistry and history of turquoise, Egyptian blue and other synthetic copper silicates, the organic salts of copper in bronze corrosion, and bronze patinas. A detailed survey of conservation treatments for bronze objects is also provided. Four appendixes cover copper and bronze chemistry, replication experiments for early pigment recipes, a list of copper minerals and corrosion products, and X-ray diffraction studies.

    David A. Scott is senior scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute and head of the GCI Museum Research Laboratory. His publications include Ancient and Historic Metals and Metallography and Microstructure of Ancient and Historic Metals. 

    "Combining information on pigments and corrosion products, which are usually treated separately but are often chemically identical, is brilliant. No conservator or scientist in the field should ignore this work."         
    —Gerhard Eggert, Professor of Conservation, Academy of Fine Arts, Stuttgart, Germany

    "The study corrects a number of past misidentifications and relates the discovery of previously unidentified corrosion products. It will serve as the reference book on these materials for a long time to come."
    —Paul Jett, Head of the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

    "A mine of information and a necessary addition to all museum libraries."
    —Studies in Conservation

    "Should be read by every metals conservator as an aide memoir, and by every curator or collector as a guide to what is possible."

    "Handsomely edited and produced with superb illustrations."
    —Antique Metalware Society Journal

    "Clearly written and well illustrated and designed."

    532 pages
    7 1/2 x 10 inches
    118 color and 19 b/w illustrations
    38 charts
    ISBN 978-0-89236-638-5

    Getty Publications
    Imprint: Getty Conservation Institute


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