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The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin with the continued support of The Sumitomo Foundation in Tokyo, have now commissioned Restorient to conserve three more of their most treasured Japanese paintings. Dating from the early 17th century this set of hand scrolls chart the epic tale of "Hunting the Ogres" It will be possible to follow the conservation of these magnificent hand scrolls here on this blog. We at Restorient are delighted to have the opportunity to share this remarkable project, and to offer some insights into this type of specialist conservation.

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Thursday, 1 July 2010

Beyond the lens...........

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Although many photographs have been taken, it is the information the camera cannot detect which we also have to collect. A great deal of time must be spent poring over every detail as we cannot miss any information which will later help to inform the conservation process.

We knew that the hand scrolls had heavy paper linings with a high clay content which had contributed to the severe creasing. The backing had also been coated with a dusting of mica, a lustrous powdered silicate. (The word "mica" is thought to be derived from the Latin word micare, meaning "to glitter"). This technique is no longer favoured by Japanese scroll-mounters, it was a traditional decorative coating which also helped the scrolls to roll smoothly. It was unfortunately very prone to off-setting and under microscopic examination we found a number of areas where the mica from the backing had transferred to the surface of the paintings.  
We must also consider "historic repairs" and the ethics behind their possible retention. These can pose real conundrums. A skillful repair hundreds of years old can be a thing of real beauty. However an area of hasty retouching using an inappropriate pigment, although historic, might be considered less integral.

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