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I'm no artist or sculptor but a classics graduate with a passion for Classical art and sculpture. 

I am in need of advice from professionals regarding a recently acquired a bust from a car boot sale. 

I purchased this for £16 and was hoping it might be possible to refurbish it for a Grey stone/marble look like the traditional classical sculptures and busts. 

I have taken this to an antique dealer who did not particularly care for it and appeared to want me gone knowing he would make no money from me. He believes the material is plaster as it was cold and sounds hollow. 

I also have taken this to the local Warhammer store where the staff were very interested and friendly and appeared to be knowledgeable. They remarked that the hair, base and drapery appear to be a kind of putty added after while the rest appears to be ceramic. He sanded a little off the bottom of the bust and when the paint underneath came away he was almost sure it was ceramic. 

I would like to restore the piece because of the numerous brush strokes visible all over and the rather haphazard painting where certain parts have been left bare. 

The Warhammer chaps suggested I begin with Acetone to reduce the brush marks down and then gentle sanding if that fails and they have kindly offered to paint/spray it in store with me when I reach a stage in which it can be done. 

My main questions are:

Can anyone identify this material purely from the images I've provided? (I'm located in Cambridge UK if anyone local can help) 

Is the advice of Acetone and sanding good? I don't want to risk losing detail or damaging the piece overall, but I'm aware once I begin this process there is no going back. 

Is there any other recommendations for what to do? 

Apologies if any of this sounds stupid, I simply have no idea when it comes to painting, stripping paint, sculpting or materials. I'm only familiar with art styles and forms of the ancient world. While this is clearly neo-classical inspired, it's modern so I know virtually nothing on how to approach this. 











Edited by ClassicistJames95
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Unfortunately I can’t tell from the image what material it is, although ceramic or plaster both seem likely. The acetone won’t hurt either Ceramic or plaster, only strip the old paint away. If the Warhammer guys on your side of the pond are like the ones I know, believe them. They know their painted statues!

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At least it is not a Song Dynasty bust...for a 16 pound price tag, I would say that you can do to it as you please. If you plan on repainting, you have a couple of ways to go. You can try the acetone to level the brush marks but, if the acetone works on the brush marks, there is a good chance that it will also dissolve the paint. Sanding with a steady hand and fine sandpaper could knock down the brush marks but you have to assume that the marks are actually paint and not plaster. You can try scraping the brush marks with a sharp tool. You can try stripping the entire piece, but not knowing what it is made of may have disastrous effects on whatever it is made of if it is not ceramic. You can try scratching it in an inconspicuous spot. If your tool goes through the paint and INTO the piece, that part is probably not ceramic since the ceramic won't be penetrated...the choices are yours to make. Have fun!


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Looking at this, I would believe it to be plaster, but there are some things you could do. First, is it all one piece except for the flat square base? Secondly is it possible to gouge the underside of the shoulder area with a knife, removing material? Thirdly, does acetone effect the area underneath the shoulders in the manner that others have stated?

Reasons for asking. . . Could be that it is actually  in two pieces with join of stand at the shoulders. If easily gouged, I would consider it plaster as ceramic, even low fire would not easily gouge. Thirdly, attempt to remove the material completely to start with plain surface. Only test before hand with solvent under the shoulders.




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I think it is Plaster though I'm really not sure if it is one piece or not, I think the stand is a separate piece, as is the base. 

This weekend I will take it with me to my mothers where she has some white spirit and cotton buds and I will have a gentle go at some of the brush strokes. 

Will also raid mother's sowing cupboard for a needle and gouge in a discrete place to determine the material.

Visually the brush strokes do not bother me too much, while there are some large ones on the front left breast that are overly noticeable, I am more apprehensive of simply ruining the piece as I am really not skilled at DIY Art. 

What bothers me more is the random paint marks in various colours where somebody has painted this rather poorly which I will attempt to remove with the white spirit and then other sections absent of paint are also overly noticable.

Therefore, what would the likely outcome be If I were to do very little with the white spirit and move quickly on to a respray?  

Surely it couldn't make the piece worse?



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james, this bust appears to me to be a piece that may be made of plaster or it might be a ceramic piece of "paint your own pottery".     i do not know if that kind of term is familiar over in the UK but it refers to poured slip clay molded work that is available for the public to finish in whatever way they like.    we have had them here for a number of years and they are beginning to wane in popularity.   

try an internet search for Pottery Molds and see who makes them.  there will probably be several makers and each will have a "catalogue of designs" where you might find your lady.   if you really like her, maybe you could "paint her your own way".

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2 hours ago, ClassicistJames95 said:


Surely it couldn't make the piece worse?



I think for £16, you won't break the bank to find out. Just go slow and test in an inconspicuous spot first. Solvents like Varsol (white spirits) or acetone shouldn't etch or dissolve either plaster or ceramic. Acetone is sometimes used to clean mold release off of a fresh plaster mold. If the surface is somewhat porous, it may stain because of the paint that's already on it, but if your plan is to paint over it anyways I don't think you need to worry about it.

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