Artlab’s Objects Conservators conserved four plaster nativity figures ensuring they were ready for Christmas services.

Detail of nativity figureJoseph, nativity plaster figure after treatment at Artlab Australia.

With Christmas approaching, St Peters Cathedral in North Adelaide delivered four delightful plaster nativity figures to Artlab for treatment. The painted figures were likely to have been made circa 1940-50 and are stamped with the makers mark “Faith Craft”. The remainder of the set will be treated in 2023.

Large plaster sculptures are heavy and susceptible to impact damage. The combination of these characteristics has resulted in breakages and some surface loss on the figures.

Mary and Joseph needed cleaning and required a small amount of remedial in-painting where painted areas had become worn or scratched with use.

The Donkeys head had been accidentally broken off and raw plaster had been applied to an older repair. The head was adhered in place and the plaster losses were filled with a plaster -based filler, shaped and in-painted to match the surrounding area. The Donkey was also given a surface clean.

The square plaster base under the Shepherd had broken in two and was held together with a sheet of felt adhered on the base. This was glued back together, and the lost chips of plaster were filled and shaped. The repairs and other small areas of paint damage were painted.

The nativity figures were returned to St Peters Cathedral on time for the services at Christmas.

More images of the figurines and conservation treatment at Artlab are available on Artlab’s Facebook