More of the Muses.

As part of the work about to start on the Plaster Statues at Seaton, we asked a local Vet to bring his portable X Ray equipment and tackle making images from the top of a high Tower Scaffold. We know that the statues are made from mortar, plaster and plaster soaked cloth, all wrapped and formed around an iron frame. But until we had these X Rays taken we had no idea of the condition of the iron frames. They have after all survived fire, the roof falling in and molten lead running down the walls, decades of weather and even being shot at, so it wouldn’t have be suprising if they were in terrible condition.
It’s unusual for a Vet to X Ray something 250 years old! He had to find a way to slide a plate behind the statue without damaging the fragile plaster and disturbing any loose bits, which he managed successfully, producing amazingly detailed images. All done whilst standing at the top of a tall Tower Scaffold and face to face with the Muse of Architecture. Rather nicely he has named each image with its correct anatomical description, so the image of the head below is labelled Ventro Dorsal, those of the knees are Carpus and the chest is Thorax.
What stands out immediately in the X Ray of the Shins above are the nails, then the iron work at the centre of the plaster. The nails are original and are holding the plaster soaked textile onto the plaster beneath. We were amazed at both their length and condition, which seems to be remarkably good. The iron work can be seen and wrapped round it is a fine iron wire, presumably to help key the plaster and give it support. In the image of the head the iron can be seen looped around and then bound with this fine wire. The wire that is visible bound horizontally around the head is part of some emergency first aid that was done a couple of years ago. We were worried that the head especially was unstable and could fall apart, so wire was gently bound around it with a layer of padding beneath. For the last couple of years the statues have been standing in their niches with various bandaged legs and heads.
What both X Rays also show is the fractured state of the plaster, all those dark lines and spaces are cracks and voids. The treatment that will be starting in the next month, once the marble floor is ok to be carry the weight of the scaffold, will seek to consolidate all these cracks and voids. Re-attaching any loose bits and leaving the statues stable and standing proudly in their niches for the next century or two.


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