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St. Mary from Atchison

I have a religious statue made of plaster. Unfortunately, its hands are missing. I need to build new ones, but I am not sure where to begin. I thought I would make new hands out of clay, then cast them in plaster, but I wanted to check with others who might have better ideas. I know how to sculpt, but I have never cast before, nor repaired such a large statue before.
Additionally, the statue has been in storage in a VERY damp basement, and the wooden base under the statue's feet has rotted, making her feet crumble badly. I will post a separate question about replacing the wood.

The statue is approx. 49 inches (125 cm) high, and base is approx. 15" (38 cm) wide x 10" (25 cm) deep. She weighs about 20 lbs (9 kg) (est.).

  • What is the size of the statue? – Joachim Aug 27 '19 at 4:33
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    What is the value of the statue? Financial, cultural, archeological... If the value is big enough, you'd better hire a professional. Can you please provide a picture with some details? If it is a "Venus de Milo", please do not attach hands :) – virolino Aug 28 '19 at 10:04
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    The statue is approximately 49 inches tall. I do not think it is of great value financially, culturally, archaeologically. No Venus de Milo here! ;) I am trying to figure out how to add photos from my computer.... – Paula Rutherford Aug 28 '19 at 14:35
  • It looks like some serious cracks in both arms. If they aren't stable, you might want to consider replacing the broken parts as well as the hands. Do you know what was the original pose of the hands? If you are a good sculptor, recreate the hands in place (would probably want to add a bit of armature into the arms to support them). Another possibility is to cast them. It looks like without the crown and base, she is around 3 1/2' tall. Find a girl of similar height and stature to pose while you create a mold of her hands and arms in the same position. (cont'd) – fixer1234 Aug 29 '19 at 0:13
  • Mold in a channel for the armature on the back side so it will be hidden. Trim the hands and statue arms so there is an accurate fit. Slide the hands in place and patch the channel to keep it there (maybe pre-fill the channel with adhesive caulk that will flow around the armature). Then patch the joints and add the shirt layer. – fixer1234 Aug 29 '19 at 0:13
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Your intention to salvage the statue is well placed. However, as already stated in a comment, your biggest enemy here is the fact that the structural integrity of the statue is affected, and therefore not reliable.

Before fixing the details, you should make sure that the statue can survive the repairs, instead of completely collapsing together with said repairs.

To verify the extent of the structural damage, you should carefully remove everything that can be removed - as in "disassemble the statue". You will understand better the skeleton it was built on (I see some wood "stick" inside the arm). Make lots of pictures, number the fragments...

Be sure to have good glue, compatible with the material of the statue.

And I would fix the base, before anything else. Otherwise, the base will allow the entire statue to be destroyed at some time later. Even a small accident will render all previous work useless, while trying to fix the base.


Bottom line: this appears to be a not-so-easy task. Even if it is not worth hiring a professional to do all the work, you may still contact a local professional for some advice - he will be able to see what cannot be seen in a picture.


Disassembling should not scare you too much - the statue needs a new layer of paint anyway - at least after de-molding and removal of exfoliated paint.

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