The Mermaid fountain, located in Blenheim Palaces’ Italian Garden is the work of Thomas Waldo Storey (1855-1915). The fountain had undergone treatment around 30 years before when it was cleaned and gilded.
During the intervening 30 years the bronze had developed a thick layer of limescale and an uneven patina, with corrosion caused by the choline in the water evident. Closer inspection also revealed that large areas of gilding had actually been painted with gold paint, which had broken down and dulled to a brownish colour.
Initially, test patches were cleaned to identify the most effective cleaning method and then the fountain was completely cleaned down to remove the dirt, dust and limescale. The client required that the sculpture be returned to a similar finish to its previous restoration, and removing the limescale revealed a mostly rich nut brown cuprite layer with areas of green. The patina was protected by a wax coating using a tinted wax in order to blend the green into the brown.
The gilding was cleaned back and any loose areas were removed and loose gold paint was also removed. The metal beneath was prepared, then painted with a a primer and undercoat prior to oil gilding.
In order to preserve the sculpture in its current state, an annual maintenance programme has been established; when the fountain is drained over winter, the sculpture is cleaned down, another coat of wax applied and the gilding touched in where necessary.