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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, 13 December 2012

Festive ?

It seems somehow appropriate (and very festive) that as we wait for the deer skin size consolidant to harden on the friable pigment (also see "Lucky''  blog from August 2010) that reindeer are everywhere........

All the pigments have been tested for sensitivity to water and where pigments seemed unstable a dilute solution was very carefully applied. It was warmed before use to decrease the viscosity and to aid penetration into the pigment layer. This has now to be left to harden naturally before being tested again to see if further applications are necessary. The layers of backing papers can then be safely removed. This is necessary as we need to support the deep rolling creases which have developed over the many years of handling by enthusiastic Ogre hunters.

We still prefer the traditional techniques as they work so well and have proved to be very effective over many hundreds of years. There have been various modern synthetic chemicals tried for consolidation and although ruthlessly efficient these have often proved to discolour over time. They are also impossible to remove. So, deer skin size (nikawa) it is......

This Christmas show someone you really care .....with the gift of a handcrafted lacquer fountain pen featuring our favorite Ogre - Shoten Doji !!!

It might prove though to be a stern test of your affections as  they are currently $22,000  !!!!!

Finally, Restorient would like to wish all the followers of this blog Seasons Greetings and our very best for 2013. 

Friday, 9 November 2012

Meet the Ogres!

The  Ogre-in-Chief we are hunting is Shuten Doji who can assume human form at will, is partial to human flesh and especially fond of sake....... He is the sixth devil of the 'World of Desires' and sometimes known as 'The Drunken Devil' It does seem curious that the artist chose to make the worst demon of all an overweight long haired blond?

The story is so old and well known that there have been numerous attempts to portray this particular ogre. Throughout the project we will be investigating how he has appeared elsewhere to compare this portrayal with  other paintings and prints.

Such is the  notoriety of Shoten Doji that just his demonic arm also features in this charming Japanese crepe paper book (These books are called chirimenbon and will be featured in a later blog) 


Thursday, 4 October 2012

Polderfun ?

Its Poldercross..... and involves a combination of open water swimming, cross country running and repeatedly jumping into very muddy stinking dykes for over 10k. More than five hundred people recently took part in this annual 'attraction' just outside Leiden and incredibly seemed to find the entire thing enormously amusing ?

This was however only a temporary distraction for those intent on hunting Ogres........

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Hunt is on !!!!

The  Ōeyama emaki (Hunting the Ogres) are a set of three hand scrolls that comprise of twenty-four paintings and their accompanying text panels. Dating from the early seventeenth century, altogether they measure over forty-two gory meters. The conservation work is scheduled over the next three years and those of a strong disposition are most welcome to follow the hunt ...and the conservation of these extraordinary scrolls.

.......something strange was happening in Kyoto.  Beautiful young women began to disappear without trace. First there were five, then ten, until more than thirty women had vanished. In desperation an Oracle was consulted and he confirms the worst - Ogres were indeed responsible.They were capable of assuming human form at will, and they were partial to drinking blood and feasting on human flesh. The Emperor then commanded six formidable samurai disguised as Buddhist pilgrims to hunt down the Ogres and destroy them ..........

We are now busy documenting the condition of the scrolls prior to conservation so the hunt has now begun !


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Restorient are today heading back to the Chester Beatty Library for the last session of Bamboo Cutting. There will be a talk on Thursday 26th for the friends of the Library with a demonstration of tools and materials used in the conservation of the hand scrolls. Then on Friday 27th July there will be the final public lecture "The Story behind the Tale". The exhibition closes on the 5th August.

We will be announcing the new project on our return to 
Leiden...... and it is horrible !

Friday, 8 June 2012

Orange Orange Orange

Whilst we continue preparations for the start of the next project it has not escaped our attention that once again the Dutch Voetbal team are in a competition......

Should things go well we have taken the precaution of stocking up on something appropriate to show our support for Dutch colleagues.

* Update - The Dutch flag was been flown at half mast yesterday evening outside the Brandweer (Fire Station) !!!

 Netherlands 0 Denmark 1

It is going to be a long week in Holland .............


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

See the Story....

The finished hand scrolls were collected from the Restorient Studio and returned to Dublin at the end of April and are now on display in the the galleries of the Chester Beatty Library. There's plenty of time to visit the exhibition as it runs through until the 5th August.  As well as featuring two fabulous seven meter sections of each scroll, there are panels detailing different aspects of the conservation work to illustrate just some of the many processes involved .   

To compliment the exhibition the Library is running a series of events ranging from classes in origami, films, Japanese paper workshops, and even a workshop on making Japanese screens. The full events listing can be found on the Library website  http://www.cbl.ie  As part of this programme Restorient gave a public talk "The Story behind the Tale" on Friday 11th May and this will be repeated again on 27th July.


It has been an amazing experience to conserve " The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter " and it is especially satisfying to see the paintings so beautifully displayed and now in good condition for future generations to enjoy.

Followers of this blog should be aware this is not the end !!!!  We will be posting news of a fascinating new project in the near future.......

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Gold !

As part of the finishing process we had to make the decorative paper which forms the inner lining of the cover silk called the mikaeshi. This is a rather complicated process involving three layers of deer glue size nikawa. These are allowed to dry thoroughly. A coat of seaweed adhesive funori is applied and whilst this is still wet, sheets of gold leaf are carefully placed into a bamboo tube which has a copper gauze covering one end. In the tube there are also some small brass screws. So...... when the tube is gently shaken the screws shred the gold leaf which then drifts slowly onto the pasted sheet below. Any breath of air is to be studiously avoided and a sneeze.......?

We chose a simple cloud design using both gold and silver leaf which was drawn from the cloud patterns which appear throughout the two scrolls. The entire sheet was first sprinkled before a stencil was laid over the sheet to highlight the design.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


Dhr. Joost Kolkman, a professional photographer has visited the Restorient Studio to take a photographic record of the finished hand scrolls.

The scrolls were photographed in extraordinary detail, with three different light sources being used to capture the texture of the paper fibre, the lustre of the gold and silver leaf and the palette of vibrant colour.

The photographs were taken in 8.0cm sections advancing across the entire 28.88 metres and will be stitched together using digital software later. The 27.8cm height of the scrolls will be recorded in 5,000 pixels which means the length of the scroll will be reproduced in a mind blowing 500,000 pixels!

Monday, 13 February 2012


There is nothing like the fever which grips the whole country when ice forms on the canals and rivers of Holland. We resisted the temptation to go for a slither ourselves prefering to concentrate on the assembly of the hand scrolls.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Gofun is a shell white pigment which has been used for a variety of purposes in Japan. It is made from oyster shells which are weathered and aged for more than fifteen years. The top lid of the oyster is considered to produce the best quality pigment. The shells are crushed and ground before being being mixed with water and air-dried in thin layers on wooden trays. One of the better know uses of gofun was in the manufacture of Japanese dolls where the gofun was used for the face and hands.

Gofun has long being used to add to a paper called misu-gami which is used as an intermediate paper in the making of Japanese scrolls.  Historically there were two types of misu-gami manufactured. One which included gofun, and one without, called 'subuse' which was prefered for the lining of handscrolls.

Although it is now very difficult to source  we were very lucky to find a private collector who had purchased a supply of this paper over 30 years ago. Far from being too old this paper is now in perfect condition as it is mature and will help us to keep the finished handscrolls supple. Paper which has being recently made is considered 'green' and is not considered sufficently stable for use in conservation. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Painting by numbers....?

Previously we have mentioned how closely our work shadows that of the original artists' and calligraphers' and recently we discovered another fascinating insight into how the scrolls were produced.

The Princess stares wistfully at the moon
When we first examined the hand scrolls we were intrigued to see  minute characters (3mm high) written in an archaic Japanese script on the kimono sleeve of the Bamboo Cutter. It was found where  there had been loss to an area of brown pigment.

This was the only place on any of the paintings where any such calligraphy was visible.


A detail of the inscription seen from the front of the painting 

However, during the removal of lining papers from the back of the paintings, on a light table, we noticed another tiny inscription! Even though it was impossible to translate, it was still clear enough to see that it was reversed and had originally been written on the front of the painting prior to any colour being applied. As old paper linings were removed from the paintings many more tiny notations gradually became apparent. 

These images have been flipped so we can see how the characters were written beneath the current paint layer

The top character on image 1 reads as 'small' which is pronounced 'shou' which might be abbreviated from ryokusho (malachite green). The lower character though is a Chinese character for the figure '6' -  this also appears elsewhere on its own - (image 2). To confuse matters further, images 3 and 4 seem to have had different instructions but have had the same colour applied.

It seems likely that these were instructions to a team of artists on what colour to apply? With such a commission it would not be unusual that an artist sketches out the painting first and is then assisted by others to apply colour and further decoration.

We will continue to research their possible relevance and hopefully confirm our supposition.

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