Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Talismanic Shirt

by Conservation

10/31/2018

behind the scenes , conservation , The Fabric of India , Victoria and Albert Museum

The new special exhibition, The Fabric of India, will give visitors a chance to enjoy some of the magic of Indian textiles, but if you look closely, you might find some of the magic of conservation at work, too! This object, a talismanic shirt (India, 15th-16th century), was conserved by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, for this exhibition. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the fine detail of an object like this and forget that any conservation has been done at all—and that’s sort of the point. The conservation interventions disappear as if by magic and the object appears whole and perfect to your eye. Come see it at the museum and take a minute to look very, very closely, and you might be able to work out some of the conservators’ “magic tricks.”

A carefully designed mount invisibly supports and protects the delicate object. There are super fine patches at the shirt’s sides (where the folds caused the fabric to split) and tiny patches at the intersections of the fold lines crossing the body (what would have been the corners when this object was folded into a small, square packet). The conservator used a combination of materials and tools including matched fabric patches and patches of Japanese paper to mimic the appearance of what has been lost. You can read more about the talismanic shirt on the V&A’s blog.