George Washington was a tough customer in life. He’s pretty strong in bronze, too.
Over the weekend, experts restored the General’s thumb, missing since the summer of 2016.
“How wonderful to have him back the way he should be,” Alice Cutler, president of the Trustees of the Morristown Green, said on Monday.
One of Morristown’s most popular destinations, The Alliance has been a backdrop for countless selfies on the town square where Washington once trod.
The work consists of life-sized statues depicting the General and young Alexander Hamilton in May 1780, receiving game-changing news in Morristown from the Marquis de Lafayette: France would fight for America’s independence from Great Britain.
When The Alliance was unveiled in 2007, Washington clutched that news–a letter from the King of France–in his right hand.
The sculpted correspondence vanished three years ago along with his thumb. The scoundrel responsible has not been fingered.
“It’s usually drunken buffoonery,” said Steve Roy of Steve Roy Art Restoration, a Hudson Valley company that has been mending and polishing monuments around the globe for nearly half a century.
Washington’s thumb was recast by Studio EIS, the Brooklyn shop that created The Alliance. Like surgeons of sculpture, Roy and his team carefully welded the digit back onto the General’s hand.
No more letters from Louis XVI, however. The Trustees preferred not to risk further violence against the father of our country.
“It’s too bad because it really does tell the story of Lafayette coming and bringing good news from France,” Cutler said. “But I think nobody will really miss the document. Probably just me.”
The bill came to about $12,000, though most of that was for a thorough cleaning of the statues, Cutler said.
“So many of these beautiful statues that we take for granted need more work than what you’d expect.
“They need every year be waxed, and eventually, depending upon the the conditions of the weather and how much interaction it gets from the public, they do need to have a lot of restoration done to them,” she said.
Roy gently removed the statues’ patina–a film that accretes on bronze and copper–using a device that runs fine silica glass beads across the surfaces.
A lustrous new patina was added via a controlled oxidation process, he explained, and then a wax sealant was applied.
Roy’s next restorations are at the White House, and in Jamaica. He will return to Morristown in the spring to see how the Revolutionaries are holding up, according to Cutler, who anticipates another cleaning: The marble-and-granite Civil War monument, which is two years from its 150th anniversary on the Green.
Such projects are subsidized by an endowment from a fund drive in the early 2000s, and by contributions from the town government, Cutler said.
Anyone contemplating more buffoonery, take note: Since the assault on George Washington, security cameras have been installed on the Green.
Already, they have caught a toy soldier-snatcher.