The Tower Returned to Its Former Splendour
Last week all noses were to the grindstone in order to return four newly restored statues to the top of Rosenborg Castle Tower. Since 2013 they have been in the able hands of conservator Anders Ekstrøm at the National Museum of Denmark’s Sculpture Workshop. The four statues have adorned Rosenborg Castle Tower since Ferdinand Meldahl’s restoration around 150 years ago.
The statues weigh around 100 kilos each, and it was a spectacular sight as they were lifted to their rightful positions on the tower on 14 April 2015. The four statues were made as part of Laurids de Thurah’s restoration of Rosenborg Castle in the 1750s, and when Ferdinand Meldahl undertook the restoration of Rosenborg’s facade in the 1860s, this also included the statues. The four statues were originally made of sandstone, but were on that occasion made anew in zinc. This was a both cheaper and lighter material to work with, and in addition, it was also more resilient to the Danish weather.
Ferdinand Meldahl was criticised from various quarters for his merciless restoration of Rosenborg. One of the freedoms Meldahl allowed himself was altering the four statues from representing two men and two women to three women and one man. “When you grant yourself such great freedoms that you say that whether it is two men and two women is all the same, then you’re already very far from restoration, which really means to repair. In any case, it’s not conservation – that was never part of the picture,” says Anders Ekstrøm Løkkegaard, and continues, that conservation means preservation, whereas restoration grants more freedom, based on a greater knowledge of the materials. But it is not a question of lack of knowledge of the materials when you decide to make three women and a man instead of the original genders. “When things are taken so lightly, you can easily understand the criticism of Meldahl’s work.”
The Working Process
The statues are made of zinc and soldered together from many parts, as zinc contracts during cooling to a much higher degree than for example bronze. When they were made at the end of the 1800s, they were painted in order to look like the original material, sandstone, but at the time one used oil paint, which has peeled off over time. The metal was thus exposed, and the zinc had slowly begun to disappear. Today the conservation work has meant that the statues will last for many years, as a more durable type of paint has been used. The statues have been spray painted, first with a sandstone coloured paint, thereafter with layer of light green paint, and then two or three more layers of sandstone coloured paint. This means that when the paint in many years’ time wears off, the green colour will indicate when a new conservational repainting will be necessary.
New stone plinths were made for the statues in connection with their removal, as the old ones were in too poor a state to be repaired. The feet of the statues stick out over the edge of the plinths, and the statues have been anchored to the wall.
A Possible Bullet Hole
Many years of work are thus coming to an end, and the work has also included a few surprises. Anders Ekstrøm Løkkegaard explains that there was a possible bullet hole in one of the statues. It may have stemmed from soldiers who were shooting at a target. The hole didn’t go all the way through the leg, which it would typically have done if the shot had come from the foot of the castle. Alternatively the bullet should have been lodged in the foot, since the statue is hollow and closed at the foot. “I opened the foot and examined what was there, but there wasn’t anything – just plaster and bits of zinc. We haven’t left the hole there, however, as the statue was deformed, but we have photographed and documented the hole so one can see that it once was there. But it has been filled in, as it was a weak spot. Neither could we determine why it looked like that.”