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Sculptural work and stone architecture

For thousands of years, stone sculptures have been made and stone structures built. Nothing shapes a cultural landscape more than the local natural stone. Test Anyone who had stone built or created sculptures from it did so because of the durability and immortality of this material. But it was not only in our century that we discovered that natural stone does not last forever. Natural aging, environmental pollution and insufficient care lead to the disintegration of works of art made of stone. There has been no shortage of attempts to put a stop to this decline in the past. But it has only been a few years now that the technical possibilities have existed to slow down stone decay through conservation and thus to save the endangered works of art. Simultaneously with technological developments, a new specialty of restoration emerged: the restoration of sculptural sculptures and architecture made of stone.

Tradition of stone conservation in Thuringia

The restoration of sculptural sculptures made of stone can look back on forty years of history in Thuringia. Already during the restoration of the altar figures of the south transept gable of the Marienkirche in Mühlhausen in 1968 methodical, aesthetic and technological connections could be formulated and put into practice. Work on the questions asked at the time continued in the following years. The sum of these considerations was summarized in an algorithm for the restoration of sculptural sculptures and architecture made of stone. This "algorithm" is a guideline for the systematization of the questions that arise in connection with conservation and restoration.
The knowledge and practical experience of Thuringian stone conservation form the basis for the study in the specialization of sculptural sculptures and architecture made of stone in our department. In addition, there is a critical examination of international research results and important restorations.

Plastic retouching

In addition to strengthening and cleaning, the central theme of the restoration is the completion of imperfections. Today it is not so much the fragmentary state of a work of art that is problematic as the disturbing effect of imperfections on the readability and aesthetics of the object itself. The question arises as to what extent the methodical approach of retouching, as it was developed for painting, is also becoming can be transferred to the plastically formed work of art. Dealing with this question is an important focus of the course.
The basis for dealing with the work of art is an understanding of its aesthetics and its design intent. In addition to the arts and humanities aspects, the technical and artistic techniques of three-dimensional and colored design of stone sculpture and architecture are conveyed in lectures and practical exercises. The painting-technical seminars of the basic course are supplemented by the stone processing course. In the main course, the courses plastic design and sculpture technique are offered.

Color version on stone

Like other works of art, sculptures and architecture made of stone were often colored, painted or painted. From this fact, further fields of restoration work are the investigation of such versions and their conservation and restoration. The students are also taught the historical and modern painting and painting techniques on stone.

Conservation and restoration of the original

Restoration is only necessary when the work of art is damaged. The damage that can be observed on the stone is particularly diverse. They are initially dependent on the material itself and are related to the natural aging of natural stone. They are also aggravated by the weathering and environmental stresses to which the stone work of art is exposed. Finally, poor care contributes to the damage. This damage must first be described, its causes recognized and the instruments of prophylaxis and conservation to be mastered. The restoration work requires an intensive dialogue with natural scientists and material technologists. In order to be able to conduct this conversation, knowledge of mineralogy, geology and building physics is imparted during the course, building on the basic scientific subjects.
The work of the restorer goes beyond just preserving the material. Its main task is to preserve the intellectual content of the work of art, its original message and its history. In this area of ​​tension, individual answers must be found for each work of art to be restored.
On the basis of this theoretical examination, the students of the specialization can implement restoration methods on the original work of art. The necessary conservation and restoration techniques are learned during the course.
In the past few years, among others, the following objects were worked on in the specialization / restoration study focus:

  • Erfurt, Severi Church, Baptismal font, sandstone, set
    • Documentation of the inventory and the condition with extensive mappings
    • Investigations on the work technology in the result u. a. Various bonding techniques for natural stone used in the Middle Ages have been proven (resin collophony, sulfur, glutine glue)
    • Development of the restoration concept and the description of services
  • Magdeburg, Cathedral, different projects:
    • Paradise vestibule, sculpture program Clever and Foolish Virgins
    • Vesper picture
    • Pulpit
    • Main altar
    • Votive relief in the cloister
    • Grave slabs in the cloister
  • Sondershausen, Castle, Room shell made of dendritic limestone
                                       and alabaster
    • Examinations of the inventory and condition,
      Root cause analysis and conception of measures
    • List of services and costing
  • Erfurt, cathedral, sculptures of two apostles, alabaster with partial versions
    • Examinations of the inventory and condition
    • Investigations into the cleaning of the alabaster surfaces
    • Implementation of conservation and restoration
  • Erfurt, Church of All Saints, Madonna, terracotta, taken, archaeological find
    • Investigations into the inventory and condition with a focus on the version: three polychrome versions identified and reconstructed
    • Preservation of the fragments of the sculpture and the setting
    • Allocation of the fragments using virtual representation techniques
    • Presentation considerations
  • Erfurt, Man of Sorrows, sandstone set, archaeological find
    • Investigation of the inventory and condition with a focus on the version
    • Exposure of the frame (removal of secondary mortar) and conservation
    • Conception of the presentation
  • Erfurt, merchant church, baptismal font, sandstone set
    • Investigation of the inventory and condition with a focus on the version
    • Sample axis for restoration with a focus on strengthening and cleaning the frame

Restoration management

Increasingly, the restorer has to face the task of planning complex measures on stone architecture and monitoring their implementation. The necessary knowledge is imparted during the course: The systematic preliminary examination of the objects, the description of the damage and the determination of its scope, the presentation of the conservation and restoration measures to be carried out in a specification of services, the evaluation of a tender result and the possibilities of monitoring such work. The Erfurt training sets a new focus here. The cooperation with the departments of architecture, landscape architecture and civil engineering and other departments of our university provides a good basis for this.
The graduates of the specialization / the restoration-specific study focus are qualified with their wide range of training to work both freelance and in restoration companies as well as in museums or monument offices.


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