The Swedish sculptor Johan Peter Molin (1814-73) first exhibited The Knife Wrestlers in Paris in 1859. The sculpture dates from a period of Swedish art history when the Nordic myths and tales inspired many artists, and illustrates a method of fighting described in the Nordic tales.
Before conservation During cleaning
This piece exhibited all the typical damage experienced by nineteenth-century zinc sculpture: its original surface coating had been lost through corrosion, exposing the grey coloured zinc. Failure of the lead solder joints had lead to serious fractures throughout the sculpture, and one of the heads had become completely detached and had been removed to storage.
The sculpture was first removed from its plinth and cleaned using high pressure water
Solder repairs The repairs worked back
The failed lead solder joints were then carefully repaired, reinstating the detached head, and the repairs worked back to disguise the joints.
The surface was then primed and surface flaws filled and smoothed, before the application of the final coloured finish to simulate bronze as originally intended.
The sculpture was then waxed with clear and coloured waxes to promote the intended ‘bronze’ finish.
A bronze cast of this group stands outside the entrance to the National Museum in Stockholm.