cartapesta history

 

Centuries old technique, born in the 8th century in Far East Countries, the papier mâché spread from the 16th century to the whole European area.

Shaped in this material considered in Italy as noble and poetic, caskets, small furniture and other mask of the Carnival of Venice flowered  and filled this returning time of aristocratic and elitist beauty, just as much as jewels of fragility, delicacy and details.

Lux and pleasure, each of them, of course, subjected to a formal, special and custom made order.

Thus did the papier mâché cross time and ages to finally extract and, beyond themselves, become timeless.

The gently withered polychromy of my angels and other rarities, restorer inheritance of those ancestral techniques is still today a moving testimony.

In the 21st century, it always seduce a large public of aesthetes...

 

The one who is at the origin of my passion for the cartapesta, it's certainly the reeds sled of the 18th century - restored by Christophe Augerson - that I can discover at the Castle of Versailles in 2006. 

 

Elise Valdorcia

 

“I regretted not leaving Carrare marble for paper mâchémore often, this divine material that always went beyond it in nobility and finesse.”

From the memoirs Benvenuto Cellini,
sculptor and goldsmith, 1500-1571


 

sled


This sled, whose shape is a shell decorated with raised plant and marine elements, is decorated with gold foil and aventurine (metal flakes) on a colored background. The coach is covered with embossed Green Velvet.

Belonging to the royal stables of Louis XV, it was manufactured in about 1740. Napoleon 1st used it but it was then left in poor conditions in "Les Menus Plaisirs" to avoid cost  of repairing.

The Reeds Sled is the only one of the Louis XVIII collection which had been recovered in an unsatisfactory state. It had been remained in the Castle storerooms until nowadays.

Its relief papier mâché decorations lightened the sled weight but they also made it more fragile. The paintwork and vanishes were resistant to water. Thought the sled was torn in different places because of shocks it suffered from. The velvet tapestry had also suffered from the dust and was torn too.


traineau avant

                       Sled befare restoration

The retorations of the sled was carried out in three stages. First, the restorateur, Christopher Augerson, conducted documentary research. They allowed to know the state of origin of the work and to discover the manufecturing methods used at this time. He then proceeded to chemical analyses of the papier mâché manufacturing but also of the polychromy of the time through advanced techniques, used for the first time in the Castle of Versailles. Not less than fifteen layers of painting, gilding, glazes and varnish were discovered. They are those that have helped to protect he sled from the bad weather. After a year  of analysis, the conservator is, for exemple, able to prevent the sensitivity of layers of polychromy to cleaning solvents.


This sled, brown coloured due to the dust and other residues, was in fact originally painted green and turquoise blue. In the same way, the fabrics would have been blue before bleeding and turning into green. These findings are exceptional and prove how analyses are essential to restoring the work at the most authentic possible way.


The restoration of this sled is in part funded by the Florence Gould Foundation and in another part by the French Heritage Society (previously named Friends of Vieilles Maisons Françaises)

traineau apres

                         Sled after restoration