Sign In
  • UD Search

News Art conservation and preserving the journey

Image Picker for Section 0

WUDPAC Fellow Ellen Nigro rearranges dislodged paint flakes before applying a consolidation adhesive.

​​​​​​​​Large and colorful, the panel painting depicts scenes from the life of Buddha and is believed to have been made in Thailand in the 19th century, possibly to hang near a temple entrance. But after years in storage, exposure to humidity and damage from water, the painting was flaking so badly that it could not be set upright to be fully examined when this year it became a technical study and treatment project for Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) second-year Fellow Ellen Nigro. 

The painting belongs to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, which accessioned it in 2002 from the extensive collection of Southeast Asian art that belonged to heiress Doris Duke (1912– 1993). Titled Buddha’s Descent from Tavatimsait covers two hardwood panels, thought to be tea​k, and depicts two separate scenes, one that is possibly secular and the other religious. The secular picture on the left is of a palace, while the religious picture on the right is actually two connected scenes, the first showing Buddha teaching in Tavatimsa Heaven and the second showing Buddha descending from heaven. It measures approximately 4’ x 7’, and its two panels are held in place by a frame that is adorned with a floral motif and wraps around its edges.

​Through her technical study, Ellen’s goal is to confirm the historical materials and techniques thought to have been used in the painting. Her initial analysis indicated that the pigments included synthetic ultramarine, helping to confirm the mid-to-late 19th century date, when such items could have been brought into the country by foreign traders. Her analysis has also shown that the paint medium was not oil, and as indicated by the water damage to the front, definitely water soluble. Historically, tamarind seed extract was known to be used as the binder for some Thai paintings; analytical results thus far and Ellen’s experiments with actual tamarind seeds indicate that this is a likely possibility.​

​A horse and rider in the lower left quadrant of the painting before consolidation​.

The most urgent step in Ellen’s treatment of the fragile painting is consolidation of the flaking paint, a painstaking process that must be completed before the painting can be set upright, cleaned, and examined further. To do this, liquid adhesive is carefully applied beneath each flake, which is then relaxed beneath an individually cut-to-fit humidity chamber made of  Gore-Tex, blotter, and Mylar and finally coaxed back into place with a small heated spatula pressed against the curled paint chips. When Ellen’s treatment of the painting is complete, the painting will be returned to the Walters Art Museum.

A printable PDF version of this story is available here​.

Images: WUDPAC Fellow Ellen Nigro rearranges dislodged paint flakes before applying a consolidation adhesive; a horse and rider in the lower left quadrant of the painting before consolidation. (Photos: Jim Schneck, Ellen Nigro.)

News Story Supporting Images and Text
Used in the Home Page News Listing and for the News Rollup Page
After years in storage, a panel painting depicting scenes from the life of Buddha became a technical study and treatment project for WUDPAC Fellow Ellen Nigro.

After years in storage, a panel painting depicting scenes from the life of Buddha became a technical study and treatment project for WUDPAC Fellow Ellen Nigro.​

1/2/2017
Page Settings and MetaData:
(Not Shown on the Page)
Page Settings
Art conservation and preserving the journey
 
No
 
 
MetaData for Search Engine Optimization
Art conservation and preserving the journey
 
  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489
  • art-conservation@udel.edu