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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: East Asian Artworks

by Conservation


Asian painting , paper conservation

Our paper conservator and our curator of East Asian art have been examining paintings from storage so we can add information to the curatorial and conservation files. 

Seen here the pre-program conservation intern and curator are looking at one piece mounted to a panel with a lacquered wood frame.  The detail of the left side of the panel shows figures playing instruments in front of a large folding screen of a mountainous landscape sitting on a floor of gold.  This panel is not a painting but is a 20th century printed reproduction of a 6-panel painted screen.  The vertical line of damage to the right of the male figure depicts losses along the join of two panels of the original screen.  The gold floor is printed, like the rest of the picture; the floor on the original would have been covered with squares of gold leaf.


Unidentified Artist, (women of fashion at leisure), print on paper mounted to panel, no date, NN96

The second painting we examined is an original.  Shown here is one panel of a small 2-panel folding screen depicting figures in a landscape.  The background is real gold leaf.  It is easy to see the layers of paint, and with the aid of a microscope, the coarse pigments in the green foliage is easily distinguished from the thin, smooth brown of the tree trunks and the thick dots of white paint layered on top of the red of the kimono.  This contrasts with the level, smooth surface of the reproduction.  The reproduction shows all the fine details of the original, but the surface texture is lost. 

Unidentified Artist, (gathering mushrooms), opaque colors and gold on paper mounted panel, 2-fold screen, no date, NN98

Both are by unknown artists, but they are possibly Japanese.  The curator will do more research before attributing them to a specific nationality.