Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Vizcaya is a Mediterranean Revival house located in Miami Florida. It was built between1914 and 1923 for John Deering under the guidance of artist/architect Paul Chalfin. In 1916 artist Robert Winthrop Chanler was commissioned to decorate the grotto pool ceiling.
Robert Winthrop Chanler Painted Pool Ceiling 2015
The ceiling consists of a plaster substrate with sculpted and cast plaster mounted on burlap and canvas, with modified distemper paint, aluminum leaf and glazes for the finishes. The poor condition of the ceiling are the result of both, the environment (exposure to very high humidity and salts), and the ill-conceived material choices by the artist in this environment. Exposed to the elements and a documented history of failure, the ceiling has had many campaigns of repair and overpaint that cover and distort the original intent of the painting. What once was a vibrant and highly reflective surface with metallic leaf under transparent glazes is now muddled and confusing, lacking any of the dynamic characteristics of Chanler’s other work.In 2015, Chris Mills visited the site to remove layers of overpaint to gain an understanding into the extent and characteristics of the original paint layers. Results of this limited investigation found extensive use of aluminum leaf on the higher relief elements (fishes) with very deep hues of blue, green, blue-green and coral glazes used over the leaf and as background. Unfortunately, the extant glazes were fragmentary at best and provide only a partial understanding of a very dynamic and complicated work of art. Further study and analysis are ongoing to address the inherent environmental challenges for the sustainability of the existing materials and also to better understand the artist's original intent.