Friday, November 8, 2013

"All Eyes Being Fixed on Washington:" Washington Resigning Leaves the State House

This past Monday, a team of conservators and professional art handlers from Artex Fine Art Services worked with the Department of General Services and the Maryland State Archives to remove Edwin White's Washington Resigning His Commission from the State House. The painting, part of the state-owned art collection managed by the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property and completed in 1859, will undergo major conservation over the course of the next year, and will return to the State House in conjunction with the completion of the restoration of the Old Senate Chamber. This masterpiece has hung above the grand staircase of the Maryland State House since 1904, when it had been moved from its original home in the Old Senate Chamber.

Artex staff works to remove Washington Resigning from its place on the grand staircase. Maryland State Archives, 4 November 2013.
An army of art handlers from Artex worked carefully for several hours to first remove the painting from the wall and lower it to the floor. The canvas was then removed from the frame, and the disassembled frame was carried piece by piece downstairs where it was wrapped for safe transport. The canvas, meanwhile, was secured in cardboard and plastic, and carried out of the State House through a window in the original part of the State House. A specialty contractor removed the window to accommodate the painting; they reinstalled it immediately after the painting was out of the building. Once outside, the canvas and the frame components were loaded into a truck for transportation to the conservators’ studios.

After being carefully wrapped in conservation-safe plastic and cardboard, the canvas was carefully carried out of a window in the original part of the State House that was specifically removed for this purpose, Maryland State Archives, 4 November 2013.
Washington Resigning had last undergone major conservation in 1981. The frame, however, has not been conserved since 1959. Heavy dust coated some sections of the frame and a coat of bronze paint covers much of the original gilding. The conservation will return the painting and the frame as closely to their original appearances as possible, and preserve them for long-term display in the State House.

Photograph of the top of the frame after being disassembled and carried down the grand staircase, Maryland State Archives, 4 November 2013.

To see the removal of Washington Resigning, you can view a time lapse video of the process below, courtesy of Eye On Annapolis.

Stay tuned next week for the second part of our feature on Washington Resigning to learn about the history behind the commission of the painting!

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