A 19th-century silver trumpet: its maker identified
Silver objects frequently make their way into the metal conservation studio in the Ateliergebouw in preparation for exhibitions and loans. Although this often concerns conservation treatment to make the objects safe for transport and suitable for display, it is also an opportunity for researching the materials and techniques used to make the object. In the case of a 19th-century silver trumpet, through a collaboration between the conservator and curator and with the help of some high tech equipment, it was possible to identify the maker of this beautiful instrument.
The silver trumpet came to the studio for treatment, as local areas of the surface were severely tarnished obscuring a commemorative inscription. Silver tarnish results from the development of silver sulfides as the metal is exposed to pollutants in the air over time. This can often manifest in a brushstroke-like pattern as protective lacquers, applied in the past to slow tarnish, begin to fail.
When any object comes in for treatment, it is closely examined to check for signs of damage, deterioration, and to better understand the techniques of manufacture. For the trumpet, this included documenting the many maker’s marks, hallmarks, and engraved inscriptions. However, the examination also turned up an unexpected marking—several severely abraded incised characters—hidden underneath a difficult to access attachment point where the bell meets the third yard.
Utilizing a Hirox 3D digital microscope, which allows for high magnification 3D images of the surface, a clear image of the inscription was created. With the help of these images, the curator of musical instruments, Giovanni di Stefano, has been able to attribute the trumpet to an English trumpet maker, William Sandbach, likely working in collaboration with the documented silversmith William Troby.
Now that the object is more clearly understood, the degraded, non-original lacquer coating will be removed and the silver will be lightly polished in anticipation of its installation in the museum galleries. This research, as well as the upcoming treatment, has been undertaken by graduate intern Jessica Chasen. Jessica, who is in her third year of study as a Master of Science candidate at the Winterthur / University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation in the United States, is one of several interns currently undertaking conservation projects in the Studio Building (Ateliergebouw).
Visit the Waterloo gallery in 2017 to take a closer look at the markings and inscriptions on this beautiful early 19th-century trumpet.
With thanks to Jessica Chasen.
Images copyright Rijksmuseum