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crucifix repair

Repaired crucifix figure
crucifix repaired

'While man makes plans, God laughs...' as the old saying goes. Preparing photos to make them blog-ready can be time consuming; one of many reasons why I have not posted as often as promised; instead, the 'doing' of the practical work, has taken up much of my time. With apologies made, I shall continue with said post, and hope it will provide some useful insights.

This crucifix came to me by to speak!

Albeit Corpus repair is not for the amateur, I thought it might be of interest to show readers some of the stages used when repairing broken plaster figures.

First glance

Sometimes it can seem obvious where the main areas of damage are on a statue, whereas closer inspection reveals the full extent of damage. We can also see incidental details such as the hand painted drops of blood and brows. Also that the flesh colours extend into the hairline where paint from an air brush has not quite filled the space. (the air brush was patented in 1876 by Francis Edgar Stanley.)

damaged plaster Jesus statue
damaged areas outlined in green

At first glance the snub nose seemed quite unusual for a depiction of Jesus. I thought it might be just a quirk of the artist, however I later found the cause. A small blob of material had been added to the broken area of the nose, while the nostril flanges remained missing. The whites of the eyes were a strange blue, which was not an original feature.

Elsewhere flesh toned paint which had flaked away, had been filled with a rose pink paint in an attempt to disguise damage; but without success.

Glues' blues

At some point in its past, the INRI and part of the figure had been solidly glued to the wood of the cross. As removing the glue could potentially damage the wood and plaster elements, it had to be repaired situ. The variety of adhesive products applied as novice solutions to plaster statue repairs would give any restorer the glues blues!

Best practice would be to remove these elements, so as to afford access to modelling tools and paint brushes.

As this was not possible, I used a sheet of polythene and some low tack tape to mask off the wood, to prevent soiling the grain so that I could work on the INRI and corpus in situ.

First the figure was cleaned, taking care not to let any solution go onto the areas of bare plaster, as this would act as a repellent when new plaster was added. With the corpus free of grease and grime, I could guage how light the original skin tone had been and mix a batch of paint in a suitable flesh tone.

The surface was then carefully prepped to provide a key for re-painting.

closer look at damaged areas
closer look at damaged areas


Plaster corpuses for crucifixes are cast around a wire frame, the severity of any blow can bend these wires (irons) out of shape.

The wires which have been held in tension do not always re-align well, and can cause a variety of problems.

Thankfully, this was not the case for this figure .

Powdery plaster

plaster statue repair in progress
plaster statue repair in progress

As shown left, modelling in plaster is a somewhat messy process. Plaster is a talc-like powder, and when mixed with water can be inclined to drip. Its hygroscopic character is what helps to bind one plaster surface to another.

The original broken 'muscle fragments' can be seen on the photo, they act as a reminder of form. Having been completely removed rather than re-attached the same muscles were rebuilt in plaster.

The new repairs can take a while to dry, its best the plaster dries naturally to aid in retaining its strength.

The soiled plastic masking was removed, and a fresh one put in place to protect the wood while the figure was re-painted.

Crucifix restoration completed

Finally, the restored corpus, repaired and repainted, ready for return to its church.


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