In Honor of Memorial Day: A Look at the Admiral Farragut Monument
May 22nd, 2015, 10:10 am
On the morning of April 21, following a heavy spring shower, Wilson Conservation was in Madison Square Park cleaning the magnificent Farragut Monument. Thirteen years earlier, in 2002, the MAS restored the Farragut Monument, one of America’s most acclaimed works of art, through a generous grant to the Adopt-A-Monument program from the Paul and Klara Porzelt Foundation. The 1880 sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the preeminent American sculptor of the 19th century, depicts the revered naval hero, Admiral Glasgow Farragut, whose lasting fame was won by wresting New Orleans from Confederate control during the Civil War. Saint-Gaudens shows the admiral in full regalia but by 2002 the sculpture had lost its original luster as well as its sword after years of neglect. Esteemed architect Stanford White designed the exquisite semi-circular granite exedra on which the monument stands. The base, bedecked with Art Nouveau- inspired allegorical reliefs, had also been marred over time. Both were returned to their former glory with this restoration. The MAS, through its program of annual maintenance, has remained dedicated to preserving the Farragut Monument as well as 37 other “Adopt” statues conserved in parks throughout the five boroughs. At the Farragut, dirt, surface accretions, biological deposits and unfortunate elements of graffiti, were removed and the piece was washed with water and a neutral anionic detergent. The bronze, which has a protective coating of Incralac from the 2002 conservation, was allowed to dry before two thin coats of microcrystalline paste wax were brushed on the figure. After each application, the metal was hand buffed to better preserve it. The granite base was cleaned with low pressure water and mild detergent using natural bristle brushes. Small dark stains on the exedra were reduced significantly; white paint and black magic marker were removed with acetone and cotton swabs. Only with such care can these public art treasures continue to infuse magic into our city life. As Memorial Day approaches, we also celebrate the statue of Admiral Farragut among more than 270 monuments, commemorative plaques and triumphal arches, honoring military heroes, soldiers and wars that adorn New York City’s parks. Over one quarter of our city’s 1,000 public statues are memorials. These works of art, stirring images and silent companions, are symbols of our past ideals, given permanence in bronze and stone and lasting records of our country’s history.