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Thursday, June 1 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Wooden Artifacts) Technical Analysis and Conservation Treatment of a Mid-Eighteenth Century Chinese Carved Wood Lacquer Bodhisattva Sculpture

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Asian lacquer is an ancient art form resulting in a beautiful, hard, gloss material derived from resin that comes from the sap of sumac trees in the Anacardiaceae family (Rivers and Umney 2003). These trees grow in a number of Asian geographical regions. In China this traditional lacquer is known as qi, however, the Japanese term urushi has become commonly accepted for Asian lacquers. Both qi and urushi are made from urushiol sap collected from Toxicodendron verniciflua. Vietnamese and Taiwanese lacquers are made from laccol sap collected from Toxicodendron succedaneum, and thitsiol sap from Gluta usitata is used in Thai and Burmese lacquers. Also depending on the country of origin, other organic materials such as drying oils, persimmon juice, blood, animal glue, wood oil, benzoin and starch are often added to the lacquer to alter working properties, appearance and cost. Minerals and/or organic pigments are often used to add color ("Characterization of European and Asian Lacquers” 2010). Inert organic fillers such as clay or powdered ceramic are often added to thicken and provide body. Urushiol is the main monomeric component of urushi lacquer. Lacquer is applied wet and hardens when exposed to humid air. Molecules in the resin absorb oxygen and form a durable, cross-linked polymer that is impervious to water, salts, acids and alkalis and is insoluble in any solvent (Ma, Lu and Miyakoshi 2014). Often for export lacquerwares, laccol, a much less expensive lacquer, was used while reserving the more costly urushi for lacquerwares that were made to stay in China. This project involved the technical analysis and conservation treatment of a mid-eighteenth century Chinese carved wood lacquer bodhisattva sculpture, thought to be made for a Chinese emperor, and not for export. In order to determine the materials used, method of manufacture, confirm the country of origin, and determine a method of treatment; conservation issues were assessed, and sampling was conducted in appropriate areas of the lacquer for analysis. Examination and analyses were carried out using photographic techniques, x- radiography, optical microscopy, X-Ray Fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), Scanning Electron Microscopy and Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). Pyrolysis–Gas Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry (Py-GC-MS). The results were then used to consider the types of materials used, the fabrication method, and possibilities of origin and quality; and to formulate a suitable plan for treatment using appropriate conservation materials and methods.


Lisa Ackerman

Associate Conservator, Objects, The Art Institute of Chicago
Lisa Ackerman is an Associate Conservator of Objects at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she restored a Grinling Gibbons overmantle from the Cassiobury House, Hertfordshire, England, ca. 1680s. She is currently overseeing the conservation needs of the Applied Arts of Europe and... Read More →

avatar for Jiuan Jiuan Chen-[PA]

Jiuan Jiuan Chen-[PA]

Assistant Professor, Buffalo State Program in Art Conservation
Jiuan Jiuan Chen joined the faculty in the Art Conservation Department at SUNY Buffalo State in the Fall of 2012 as the professor for Conservation Imaging, Technical Examination and Documentation. She is a graduate of Class of 2001 from the same program. She previously interned or... Read More →
avatar for Rebecca Ploeger

Rebecca Ploeger

Professor/Educator, SUNY Buffalo State University
Dr. Rebecca Ploeger is an Associate Professor of Conservation Science in the Garman Art Conservation Department at Buffalo State College. She received her Ph.D. in Chemical Sciences from the University of Torino, Italy. Her main research interests are in the design, characterization... Read More →
avatar for Aaron Shugar

Aaron Shugar

Professor/Educator, Garman Art Conservation Department State University of New York College at Buffalo
Dr. Aaron Shugar is currently the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Conservation Science in the Art Conservation Department, SUNY - Buffalo State. Dr. Shugar earned his M.Sc. from Sheffield University and his Ph.D. from University College London. Prior to working in Buffalo, he served... Read More →
avatar for Jonathan Thornton

Jonathan Thornton

Conservation Professor, Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Art Conservation Department State University of New York College at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo State)
Jonathan Thornton has taught objects conservation at the Art Conservation Department since 1980. Following an earlier career as an artist/silversmith, he studied conservation in this department when it was still located in Cooperstown, NY, and received his M. A. and Certificate of... Read More →

Thursday June 1, 2017 2:00pm - 2:30pm CDT
Acapulco Ballroom Level, West Tower