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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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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Lucky ?

Cubes of nikawa and Japanese pigment sticks enogu

The traditional binder for the Japanese pigments used on the hand scrolls was a deer glue size known as nikawa. This was not only used as a binder for the pigment sticks enogu - but also helped the pigment adhere to the painting support. As the binder within the pigments weakens over time either through abrasion, poor storage or just plain old age the pigment can begin to crack or flake. It has long been the practice for conservators to re-introduce a weak solution of the same deer glue size to help consolidate and strengthen the pigment layer prior to embarking on the more complex conservation processes.

Interestingly, although we will be using a solution of nikawa, for a few years now a number of conservators in Japan have been experimenting with rabbit skin glue from Europe. As an alternative to Japanese nikawa  they feel it is a slightly softer more flexible option.

While discussing rabbits and rabbit skin glue in Kyoto, I was asked about  the tradition of the ‘lucky rabbits foot’. This, the rabbit who had ideally been shot with a silver bullet in a graveyard on a full moon only to have its left hind foot removed to provide good luck? I replied that the only thing lucky as far as I was concerned was that the idea did not extend to Elephants.

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