A remarkable small section of mosaic floor was recently uncovered when building work to create new ladies’ toilets was undertaken at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Composed of Italian smalti, including gold leaf smalti, and marble tesserae with terrazzo surround, the mosaic floor is thought to date to 1904 when the auditorium was last renovated.
They built and tiled around the mosaic so that the mosaic crown motif could be treated and ultimately viewed by theatre goers (females only – sorry gents!). First, though, it was our job was to clean and consolidate the mosaic and produce a conservation report.
Details showing surface deposits and dirt
The most damaged areas of the mosaic were the gold smalti. Whilst you can see a good quantity of gold surfaces intact, many were fractured and the majority had completely lost their gold leaf layer. Gold smalti are made to a traditional formula. Gold leaf is applied to a supporting layer of glass and then fused in a glass ‘sandwich’ with an upper paper-thin layer of glass, known as the cartellina.
We cleaned and consolidated the mosaic to remove surface deposits, protect the most delicate areas so that the mosaic will be preserved for the future and to restore its former vibrancy.
We have recommended that the mosaic is covered with a bespoke glass unit that will protect it whilst allowing people to see it – an interesting surprise if you choose the right cubicle!
The work was carried out by Tracey Cartledge and Kalypso Kampani.