Conservation and Restoration of Fine Furniture and Objects
Frieze of Prophets, Wood Relief
Frieze of the Prophets
Detail before conservation with wood visibly split

Frieze of the Prophets, wood carved panel; detail
Detail before conservation with wood visibly split

Infilling expansion cracks
Conservators infill cracks with similar species of wood, matching in grain and pattern

Infilling expansion cracks
Detail of infilled areas prior to being toned

Detail before conservation
Detail after conservation
Detail of the carving as seen before and after conservation

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Frieze of Prophets, Wood Relief at Chicago Sinai Congregation
Circa 1912
Artist Unknown


A fine artwork in and of itself, Frieze of Prophets has even more historical significance than meets the eye. The carved relief is modeled after a mural at the Boston Public Library, also called Frieze of Prophets, by eminent American painter, John Singer Sargent. A staple at the Chicago Sinai Congregation, the life of this powerful sculpture was threatened by a dangerous combination of environmental conditions and prior, faulty attempts at repair. An improper mounting hadn’t allowed or anticipated for the wood’s natural contraction and expansion in a dry environment. This resulted in severely split wood and very dry finish.


Well aware of the effects of environment on antiques, Bernacki & Associates were more than prepared to rescue the artwork. Major splits were rejoined with animal glue with losses filled with similar wood species selected for matching grain and pattern. Conscious of the dry atmosphere, Bernacki & Associates re-fitted the frame to respond to natural wood movement. An application of conservation wax provided a final layer of protection, allowing this remarkable artwork to continue standing against the elements.

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