Once the sculpture’s restoration in its many phases was complete, an additional challenge remained: getting the 800-pound piece back to Rienzi. The project required some calculated planning and a pinch of fairy dust.
Rienzi curators hoped to reinstate the sculpture close to its original location, in the bulb garden at the front of the home. Placed there, it would sit between walking paths, amongst caladium and bulbine plants, and in the spring season surrounded by tulips and paperwhites. The site posed a challenge, however, because just to the east of the garden is a deep ravine created by runoff from Buffalo Bayou. Rienzi was built along a ridge that had been carved by the bayou’s annual flooding, and although the bulb garden offered dramatic views down sloped ravines, it would be difficult to secure a standing sculpture in that location.
A small portion of ground was excavated and a cement foundation was laid at the site—something to buoy our 800-pound lady. Once the grounding was secure, the sculpture would also need to be elevated above ground level, to prevent further deterioration from moisture accumulation. A circular stone pedestal was made to fit the sculpture’s base, and lowered into place (adeptly done by the skilled hands of a worker from Natural Stone, who never paused to take out his cigar).
At this point, it was time to debut La Fée aux fleurs. Tethered to a furniture cart, she was transported to Rienzi by museum art handlers. Rather than steer the sculpture along the walking path, they removed several caladiums and created a temporary road by laying down plywood ahead of the cart as she was pushed toward the site. Scaffolding was erected over the base and a large pulley system hung from above. The fairy was then rigged to the pulley, gracefully lifted off the ground, and then positioned onto her base.
From a 19th-century French foundry, to a midcentury American garden, to a modern museum dungeon, and back again—she was stripped, scrubbed, and waxed, and now our graceful muse watches over the small creatures of Rienzi’s garden. Please come say hello.