Mauro Matteini, José Delgado Rodrigues, Rute Fontinha, A. Elena Charola
November 29, 2016
The equestrian statue of D. José I, in Lisbon, is a masterpiece of the sculptor Joaquim Machado de Castro. It weights over thirty eight tons and was made in a single casting by Bartolomeu da Costa in a copper alloy (brass). After over two centuries exposure, the statue presented an unappealing heterogeneous appearance and showed some deterioration features that required attention. Preliminary studies showed that the deterioration phenomena were typical of copper alloys exposed to outdoor urban environments. The proximity of the seacoast also contributed to some specific decay mechanisms. The highly contrasting patterns of the superficial patinas consisted of black dense deposits covering an original cuprite layer side by side with the common green deposits of basic copper sulfates, hydroxides and chlorides. The highly corrosive nantokite was present in sheltered areas, where chlorides are able to accumulate. The conservation intervention included cleaning, mostly carried out with low pressure jets of round glass beads. Onsite tests were made to select the cleaning levels required to match the areas of black and green patinas. A reddish brown cuprite layer was found underneath most of the areas with black dense deposits, while it could only be perceived by transparency on the green covered areas. When a high contrast remained between the two areas, these were mitigated with the application of water colors during the final protection phase. Nantokite active areas were passivated with sodium oxalate after the entire statue was first washed with clean water and treated with lime water to leave an alkaline reserve to slow down the eventual corrosion process, and the sculpture rinsed with ethanol to accelerate its drying. The final protection was made with Paraloid B44 and microcrystalline waxes.