Hearst Castle: Gothic Sofa

MPF Conservation has assessed and conserved furnishings of upholstered and non-upholstered objects for Hearst Castle; this page discusses the Gothic Sofa which lives in the Hearst Library.

Right, Hoyt Fields and Mitchell Powell
discussing the Gothic Sofa.

It is likely the sofa’s seventeenth century Flemish tapestry showcover was scavenged from several large tapestries. Many lag tapestries during this time period were originally woven to display on a wall, and often told a relevant story for the owner. Large homes were cold, and covering walls with tapestries had the added ability to warm the buildings. As fortunes faded, the large tapestries were sold and repurposed as showcovers and smaller tapestries. This was not an uncommon practice.

A note about not wearing gloves when handling antiquities: Protocol is to wear gloves, however, sometimes it is better to wash our hands often and not touch our face or other objects to keep hands clean rather than wearing gloves. Gloves can get caught on threads, escutcheons, splinters, bits of paint, and cause losses in objects.

On-site assessment of the Gothic Sofa;
below, Mitchell being funny funny with me.

MPFC performed an onsite assessment in 2003 to discuss with the Acting Curator how we would approach the conservation of the Gothic Sofa, located in Randolph Hearst’s Library. Our plan was to work in tandem with Stan Derelian, a textile conservator who had worked with Hearst Castle for decades (as did his father) to complete the project.

We removed the historic textile and map its location relative to the position on the object. Stan eventually took the textiles to conserve them in his studio, while we conserved the sofa frame and buildup. We kept to the exact size of the textile pattern for the sofa, while Stan also had an exact working copy of our hemp twill pattern so that he also worked to the pattern during his cleaning and reweaving processes.

Our plan worked, and the conserved textile fit perfectly. The sofa was delivered back to Hearst in less than a year.

Above, images of the sofa installed after treatment.
Below, details of the sofa after treatment.

Beautiful inside back, and seat, in details, above;
below passementerie details.

The historic silk and linen passementerie was made by the house of Scalamandre, creating beautiful trims since 1929. The tassels were conserved, as many were tattered and in need of care, which we discuss in our page on Passementerie. They were retied, rebraided, and cleaned.

Left, a detail of the crown of the back where the inside back meets the outside back. Historic woven woolen damask showcover on the outside back, below, was cleaned and reupholstered.

Below, the sofa in the Library.

Other Hearst Castle Pages are: