Bows for Beaux

From time to time, the BSM hosts interns from conservation programs looking for practical experience. In the early 2010s, when visiting a colleague working at the textile conservation lab at the Costume Institute, MET, in New York City, I was introduced to an emerging conservator from Colombia, South America. She expressed interest in visiting Toronto to explore other conservation labs and meet like-minded professionals. We discussed the possibilities of working for two weeks at the BSM, performing treatment on several pairs of shoes, while at the same time touring the city.

One of her areas of expertise was dyeing and colour matching for infills of missing fabrics which is a necessary skill in textile conservation. The BSM had two shoes from the late 17th century that were missing bows, a highly decorative and visually impactful component. Along with Elizabeth Semmelhack, BSM Director and Senior Curator, we researched what would be the most appropriate replacement for the original bows which involved looking at paintings from the period. We found two that seemed to fit the bill as the shoes in the portraits bore a striking similarity to the ones in the BSM collection.

Archduke Charles Joseph with squirrel, aged four to five years, 1653 – 1654 by Cornelis Sustermans, Kunsthistorisches Museum
Herzog Philippe von Orleans, 1651 - 1654 by Justus van Egmont, Kunsthistorisches Museum

We ordered all the supplies (dyes and silk ribbons) in advance of her visit. After several attempts, the desired colour was achieved and you can see the amazing results in the photographs below.

P90.0201 (before and after)

L92.0001 (before and after)

By: Ada Hopkins, BSM conservator

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