RESTORATION experts have completed their work to stabilise the fire-damaged casts from the Glasgow School of Art.

A number of the school’s famous plaster casts were damaged in 2014 when a fire partially destroyed the west end of the famous Mackintosh Building. 

Since then, specialists have worked to conserve some of the famous pieces that had been affected. 

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Some 224 were housed in the building; four were destroyed in the fire, with 12 severely damaged and many more blackened by soot.

Graciela Ainsworth and her team worked tirelessly to stabilise the pieces after fissures made the sculptures susceptible to “collapse into a pile of dust” if moved. 

Chemicals were added to consolidate the plaster and maintain their forms, though specialist Polly Christie said that many of the sculptures would remain darkened, with the plaster not replaced or painted over, to live on as a “marker of what happened in 2014”.

Now Ms Ainsworth and her colleagues from Graciela Ainsworth Sculpture Conservation have completed their work, meaning the sculptures can be boxed up until a full restoration of the building is complete.

Acrylic windows on the boxes also mean that experts will be able to constantly check on the safety of the casts, as work continues on around them. 
The sculptures have served as models for generations of fine art students over the decades, allowing for those who could not afford to see the original marble statues in Rome, Florence, the Louvre or Greece they have been an aesthetic tool of great importance.

Among those depicted are the Dying Captive, Rebel Slave, two Medici tombs and the “Bruges” Madonna And Child by Michelangelo.

Donatello’s St George and ancient Greek statues such as the Nike, or Winged Victory of Samothrace, also feature alongside the Venus de Milo and the Aphrodite and Dione figures from the East Pediment of the Parthenon. 

Students were preparing for their degree shows in May 2014 when flames engulfed the Grade A-listed Charles Rennie Mackintosh building.

Earlier this month, The Herald reported that a full-scale model of part of the Mackintosh Library would be built to test if the original materials and techniques can be used in its reconstruction.

Specialist architectural joinery company Laurence McIntosh was appointed to construct the prototype bay, which will take about two months to build in one of the Mackintosh Building studios.

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Sarah MacKinnon, project manager of the Mackintosh Building Restoration project, said: “The prototype will help us to test the materials and techniques that were used to construct the original library and will be used to construct its replacement.

She said this will inform the main library construction scheduled to begin early next year.