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Antique glass at Musée L: restoration and typo-chronological research

At the request of L Museum in Louvain-La-Neuve, KIK is restoring a unique collection of antique glass. Through a typo-chronological study and chemical analyses, the experts are also looking for the origin of some rare pieces. This task, entrusted to KIK, was recently extended to include the editing of a collection catalogue.


Museum L
Catholic University of Louvain

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Géraldine Bussienne

A collection from Musée L

The Musée L in Louvain-la-Neuve houses a hundred or so antique glasses from the Fonds Mayence and the former Bible Museum of the KU Leuven. The collection of the Mayence Fund was donated by Fernand Mayence (1879-1959), professor of classical archaeology at UCL. He probably collected the pieces during his excavations in Syria.

An examination in August 2014 showed that the glass collection was in urgent need of conservation-restoration treatment. The museum decided to entrust this treatment to KIK. The experts selected about fifty pieces that were in relatively good condition. They underwent cleaning and surface consolidation. The rest of the collection was in a worse state and therefore required more extensive treatment. The KIK restores them, cleans them, consolidates the material and repairs broken specimens.

Mainly from the Near East

KIK's glass and ceramics workshop is also documenting and researching the origins of the glass collection with a view to publishing a catalogue. For this purpose, hundreds of photographs and several X-ray images have been taken. Analyses show that most of the glasses were blown. They seem to originate mainly in the Near East (Syria and Palestine). They can be dated between the second half of the 1st century BC and the 9th century AD.

Identifying all the pieces proved to be a huge challenge, but the KIK did select some unique glasses for further research. One example is a rare balsam bottle in colours reminiscent of emerald and ruby. The exceptional chemical characterisation allows the object to be dated to the Islamic period (9th century AD). The Glass Laboratory of the KIK is also analysing a mauve bottle in the shape of a pine cone.

Atelier glas en keramiek 2 Verres antiques du Musée L


The results of the typo-chronological research will appear in the glass catalogue of Musée L. In addition, the museum plans to dedicate an exhibition to the restoration of the glass collection.

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