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Lamp Restoration Project – “Après La Classe” by Moreau

Lamp Restoration Project – “Après La Classe” by Moreau

10:43 09 June in Crafts, Restoration
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So, after the lamps in the new bedroom[1,2], I guess I decided I needed a hobby.  While the bedroom  project was on-going, we had another project running at the house, Operation:  Clean the hell out of the Attic.  It was a successful project, one that yeilded some treasures here and there.

One of the items we came across while sorting the boxes of stuff we pulled out was this old lamp.

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I wish I took one more before photo here.  What you see in that image was partially dusted.  It was initially covered in decades of dust and cobwebs worse that what you see here.  It was accompanied by a stem.  The original configuration, minus shade, looked like this:

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Written on a small plaque on the base is “Après La Classe“.  Barely readable beneath that is the name Moreau.  I can only make that much out, but there seems to be a first initial or possibly 2, like L & F.  I ran a search on ‘Après La Classe lamp’.  I found this first.

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That lamp sold $467, and I believe it to be original. My lamp is a bit different.  For one, its been neglected.  For as long as I have been back in NY, this has been sitting in the back of the house gathering dust and cobwebs.  To get a better idea of what restoration would require, I started cleaning.

The process went like this.

  1. Dust like a madman.
  2. Apply a paste of baking soda using child’s soft toothbrush, then again with q-tips.
  3. Apply vinegar with toothbrush as well, an excellent cleaner which made the baking soda residue foam, and aided in cleaning.  The vinegar ultimately rinses any baking soda residue away.
  4. Use a q-tip soaked in vinegar to get into the tough spots.
  5. Repeat #4 with half a box of q-tips. Lots of nooks and crannys here.

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That was after a paste of baking soda and water was applied with a soft kid’s tooth brush.

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That is after the follow-up cleaning with vinegar.

Another issue is it shows clear signs of wear and some corrosion.  Initially I suspected this was some material laid over a form to make the sculpture.  I turned out to be correct.  This lamp is bronze over zinc (spelter).  Apparently the Moreau’s, in the late 19th to early 20th century I’m finding,  made a limited number of each of their lamps/sculptures in bronze, and then made many more copies with bronze over zinc, which would have been cheaper to produce.

But this leads to the next problem.  As you can see in this next picture, there is some severe damage to the top of the base.

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What I’ve been able to piece together is that the stem of the light fixture broke off at some point, and someone tried to use a blow torch to weld it back on.  As I cleaned this piece, I was very pissed off at this, muttering to myself, and wondering just how I was going to fix that.  It seemed stupid to me that someone would take a torch to an item like this.  Then another series of thoughts occurred to me.  What if the person with the torch actually did know what they were doing, but did not know exactly what materials they were working with?  What if they thought this was a pure bronze lamp, and not bronze over zinc?

The melting point of bronze is variable, depending on the composition of the alloy(copper and tin), but could be in the range of 1,742°F(950 °C) according to Wikipedia. The melting point of zinc is 787.2°F (419.5°C). Supposing that the person did know how to use a torch, but didn’t know they were working with only a layer of bronze over zinc, and not pure bronze, the temperature of the torch could have been wildly greater than what the actual material would have allowed. An innocent attempt at repair probably went very badly, very quickly.

But where does this leave a web developer (and former artist and sculptor) when attempting to repair this?  I don’t know yet.  I haven’t worked with metal since college, over 15 years ago, and even then I didn’t work with it very much.  I have a good knowledge of modern materials and tools however. We shall see how the project progresses.  The end goal is a partially restored and working lamp for our library.  This will require some delicate efforts.

Please note:  If you have any information on this lamp, its origins, creators, or suggestions on the restoration, please feel free to contact me!


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