Meticulous restoration

After the war, these panels were stored in the cellar of the Rouen museum; as a result, humidity pervaded the plaster structure supporting the panels and the metal reinforcement bars expanded, causing the plaster to crack and the tiles to lift.

The broken elements were identified and held in place with adhesive strips before being dismantled with hammer and chisel. The tiles were meticulously numbered, then removed from the plaster and framework. All the elements (tiles and reliefs) were then transported to the restoration site.

After being stored in inadequate conditions for over sixty years, the ceramics had acquired an uneven layer of grime: areas of unglazed paste had absorbed dust, while enamelled surfaces were better preserved. The cleaning process began with the removal of all plaster traces with a chisel, then high pressure steam cleaning.

After drying, the reliefs were first assembled on a table in order to identify restoration needs and positioning difficulties. Both reliefs had many chips and cracks; in particular, the bow on the "Music" panel was broken in two.

The colour restoration work was carried out with acrylic colours, in collaboration with the curator. Only the most visible chips were repaired.

For the reassembly of the pieces, an aluminium alveolar structure (supported by corner irons) was chosen in view of its insensitivity to humidity, perfect dimensional stability, lightness and rigidity. Each element - first the central reliefs, then the surrounding tiles - was then fixed in place with mastic.

The exceptional quality of the ceramic and the design of the panels made it possible to create images which closely resembled the originals.