The restoration of doors is an activity in which L’Atelier de Santi had the opportunity to return to work during 2019. It was on the occasion of the restoration and rehabilitation of the The Vargas House Palace, or the Pobes Palace in Casalarreina (La Rioja). The works were being carried out by the company Crea Restauración de Bienes Culturales S.L. and they proposed, among other functions, the restoration treatment of the original doors.
Below I insert the documentation provided by the conservative archaeologist Javier Garrido Moreno in the restoration works of the Vargas Palace on the material history of the palace doors:
Historical and artistic note
“The doors are an extraordinary accent to this unique building. Its value is, of course, in its own value of art, not in an academic and elitist sense, but in the most natural and true, linked to crafts, art and material culture. But inseparably, this value of unique objects exists for its own history and authenticity: the building preserves its original doors and carpentry from the 18th and 19th centuries, which have reached us and directly express their own story.
Basically the palace was built during the first half of the s. XVIII, in a splendid baroque style, simple and of classicist inspiration. But, as in historical buildings, it is not a static entity, but a living organism, which has undergone changes and additions in its evolution. And this is reflected in its doors, which open and close its interior spaces. Thus, from an archaeological point of view, in order to date and understand them, they have not only had to be analyzed in their workmanship, shape and materials, but also in their context: whether or not they are in their original location, the chronology of the wall in which are opened, documentary references, etc. We present here some very basic brushstrokes of these inquiries, highlighting some particular aspect.
Variety of types and stiles
A large group of doors to the palace, most of them, are of the so-called tousled or quarters -which begin in Spain at the end of the 16th century and are generalized in the 17th and 18th centuries- robust doors, whose structure consists on stringers and crossbars that frame frames or bearings with simple geometric drawings and molded edges. It is the image of the doors that we find, for example, in paintings by Velázquez or Zurbarán.
At the Pobes Palace we have excellent examples and a variety of types (one or two leaves, decorated with rhombuses, crosses or sinuous incisions) in very good condition and with their authentic hardware. They belong to the first moment of the building, and can be dated for the most part in the first half of the 18th century and almost all of them are in their original layout. Among them there are two that seem older and, perhaps, reused from the oldest manor house (17th century) and also others that could have been added in the second half of the 18th century. Despite their simplicity, they adapt to the agreed use and the service places are different from those that give access to a main room.
“Rich” doors and “poor” doors
The other group is made up of so-called paneled doors, which stem from a technical evolution in woodworking, which allowed the execution of finer boards and more complex assemblies. In Spain, they became popular during the 19th century, although they were used in aristocratic and power spheres in the 19th century. XVIII. They are more monumental or “appearance” doors, usually with two leaves or gates, visually divided into panels or “panels” with different compositions of frames or molded drawings, which also played with the nobility and variety of the woods. In the palace we have some notable examples of different dates. Almost all were in salons and prominent places and gave way to cameras or more private spaces.
Curiosities and anecdotes
On the flanks of a main room on the first floor, there were two splendid gates, early examples of their style, probably belonging to the late s. XVIII (for the adaptation of the frame and span, for the fittings, the mixilinear moldings, etc.). One of them, the most noble and striking, has a very curious historical and decorative detail: on two panels there was a motif facing each other on the two leaves of the gate; but the figuration in relief – two keys crossed at right angles and oriented like cardinal axes – was conscientiously eliminated, chiselled until it was flat.
This action was carried out at an ancient time, although we cannot specify it and, of course, we do not know the reason. We only suggest that the erased symbol cannot have a religious meaning (keys of San Pedro) because the orientation and angle is different; instead, most of the clues lead us to Masonic iconography, specifically to the symbol of a lodge’s treasurer.
There are other examples, from the 19th century, possibly from the middle of the century, at which time we know that interventions were carried out on the building. A more direct fact is given in two pairs of identical doors, located at the ends of a large room, which communicated with two private rooms decorated with paintings: on one of its walls the date of 1851 appears. Another, with light wood inlays and an architectural framework, closes a series of areas adapted in this century to new fashions and uses.
In conclusion, the set of doors of the palace-house is very interesting and valuable and tells us about the history of the building. Now its restoration allows to recover its original use and beauty.”
Javier Garrido Moreno, Archaeologist,
Restoration of doors. Types and classes
The door type was varied, but there were two general door types related to location. On the ground floor, the rustic character of the doors was evident. While in the upper and main floor the doors were made of nobler woods and with carpentry procedure. In both cases, all the doors were of a solid Castilian style, that is, of good consistency and material construction. This is something that made his recovery very worthwhile.
Distribution. Types and classes
The ground floor was originally the service area, warehouses and carriage entrance. So on this floor the doors are less refined than on the main floor. But in any case we are talking about well-cured wood and from various periods (mid-18th century-XX). In that time and environment it was not understood to make use of an inappropriate material. For some doors, regardless of their location and status, poorly dried or / and poorly cut wood would only bring problems of use and maintenance. Something that in pre-industrial times they preferred to avoid. They manufactured well of first intention. So the work, among other later ones, of the dryers in the logging operations was essential. Pine was, along with chestnut and other fruit trees to a lesser extent, the most widely used material in the area where the service coexisted.
In the stately area of the palace, mezzanine and main floors, the doors presented a better quality of material. Pine, chestnut and walnut are the woods most used in its manufacture. The manufacture of these doors is more elaborate. Pine and chestnut for the frame and the cross bars appear in its elaboration, and among these, walnut panels in the holes carved in a truncated diamond point in most cases. And on other occasions under reliefs carved into the panels with simple designs. And there was a case of doors armed with cherry trees and other fruit trees. Also when the door leaves are large. Accessories are somewhat more elaborate, with larger hinges and spearhead in many of these cases.
In the restoration of doors, wood, its raw material, is what sets the tone to avoid its degradation and loss. The problem in many cases and almost generalized was the attack of xylophages, with some breaks due to wear. There were several doors on the main floor, which were completely roughly repainted imitating frame and panels of different woods. Or in other cases the repainting was monochrome on the entire surface and on both sides. All with the intention of covering and not curing. And on most doors, the xylophagous attack was visible to the naked eye.
In general, the appearance of the doors was a general loss of color and brightness. Something that was still observed even after cleaning the dust and superficial dirt. In addition to the biological attack of xylophages, the wood was dry due to lack of nutrition and without protection. In this way it was exposed to future alterations such as cracks, fissures and rot.
The occasional arrangement or addition of material other than the original to save eventualities appeared in several of the doors of the service area. In some cases the windows and openings were carved by hand, and had cat flaps. The latter, occasionally being or not of origin, currently appeared covered with some planking or metal mesh.
Door restoration treatments
The physical and mechanical changes suffered in the doors of adjustments, additions and other circumstances over time, were resolved according to adaptability and structural criteria. If the changes had supposed an aesthetic and / or functional nonsense, it was restored as much as possible original aspect eliminating the disturbing elements. On the contrary, when these changes did not greatly alter the aesthetic appearance of the door, nor its structural function, they were preserved and integrated into the restoration process. Sometimes the fittings and / or their placement had to be changed when changing the position and function of the door itself in the general project. As well as in the fences of the mouths, which in some cases were replaced or changed in direction, due to work imperatives.
To remove the layers of paints we use paint remover for the first layers. For the latter we always use the mechanical and manual procedure. With this we want to avoid influencing as much as possible with the chemical procedure on the original surface of the door.
Finish, final protection
As for the material consistency of the wood, it was affected in the majority of cases by woodworm and xylophages. Therefore, a systematic, curative and preventive treatment was carried out with a wooden protector (Xylazel Total IF-T). This application was carried out prior to the following treatments to nourish, protect and patina the wood. And always after having consolidated the physical and mechanical structure in cases of need, due to lack of material or breaks. For filling of galleries, protection and final patina, wax of the same brand approved for this use was used. It was applied to a spatula to close the woodworm galleries. And also a brush and then a rag to remove the excess and burnish the brush.
In exterior doors, treatment with lasur and nourishing the wood was essential, and much with teak oil, more refined and most recommended for its affinity with treated woods.
The project management was followed up by the managing director of Crea restauración s.l., Carlos Martín Jiménez, and his counterpart for the Fundación Hacienda de Pobes, Jorge de la Hidalga Pistorius, whom I thank for this follow-up and his advice.
Graphic design; Elena Ortega Rojas
If you liked this publication on the restoration of cultural and artistic assets, I encourage you to consult the following publication from L’Atelier de SantiIf you liked this publication on the restoration of cultural and artistic assets, I encourage you to consult the following publication from L’Atelier de Santi;
Lining a painting on canvas