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Conserving John Ringling's library

 

Preserving the collection is one of the primary missions of the Art Library. As an integral part of our museum’s history, the books previously owned by John and Mable Ringing hold an honored place within the Library’s Special Collections, and the preservation of these volumes is critical to their longevity and our long-term enjoyment of them.

While most of John Ringling’s books are in remarkably good condition, especially considering the fact that they were kept in Ca d’Zan for many years without the benefit of either air conditioning or humidity control, some of them have required conservation in order to restore them to their original condition and ensure their continued use.\"John Manners, Marquis of Granby\" by Joshua Reynolds, 1766, from the collection of John Ringling

One of these recently conserved books is particularly significant because of its tie to one of the Museum’s paintings: A full-Length Portrait of the Marquis of Granby by Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A. 1723-1792. This is a portfolio published by Messrs. Duveen Brothers, a gallery in London known for its interest in selling Old Master painters to American collectors. The portfolio was sent to John Ringling by the gallery with the hope that he would purchase the 1766 portrait of John Manners, Marquis of Granby by Sir Joshua Reynolds. John Ringling did buy the portrait in 1927 and it is now on view in Gallery 18.

The Marquis of Granby was a Member of Parliament and hero during the Seven Years War, after which he was made commander-in-chief of the British Army. Oddly enough, he commissioned Reynolds to paint this picture as a gift to his former enemy in the Seven Years War, the French Marshall Victor-François, 2nd Duc de Broglie.

The portfolio, with two prints of the image of the painting of the Marquis of Granby, was sewn together at a later date and was not the original construction. Presentation or sales copies such as this were normally unsewn with loose sheets inside. Over time, it had acquired a form that was not consistent with the way it was intended to be presented. Book conservator, Sonja Jordan-Mowery, restored the portfolio to a presentation form that now allows it to be handled, but still protected.  

 

portfolio of A Full Length Portrait of The Marquis of Granby, showing yellowed glue

The many scuffing marks, abrasions, staining, and damage from insects can be seen on the “before” cover. Some of the pages showed the presence of glue that had yellowed over time.  The many scuffing marks, abrasions, staining, and damage from insects can be seen on the “before” cover. Some of the pages showed the presence of glue that had yellowed over time.The mezzotint of the image of Reynolds’ painting had creased and abraded corners, tears along the perimeter, scratches, and there were areas of pigment loss throughout the picture.During conservation, the pages were washed, bleached, mended, flattened, de-acidified, and then inserted into Mylar sleeves for protection.

 

The restored portfolio was put into mylar sleeves for protection

A post binding was constructed so that individual pages and the prints/images of the Reynolds painting can be removed. The cloth was removed from the boards and cleaned. Tears were mended.The mezzotint and another print of the Marquis of Granby, using the printmaking technique of Chine-collé, were washed and bleached to remove stains and foxing. Then tears and corner wear were repaired and several areas of pigment loss were inpainted with pastel pencils.

 

 

 

 

The finished result of this conservation is stunning. If you would like to see this or any other work from John Ringling’s library, you are most welcome to make an appointment by calling the Library’s number 941-359-5700, ex. 2701. We welcome your questions and comments! please email elisa.hansen@ringling.org.

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