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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Edo Period Lacquer Box

by Conservation


behind the scenes , conservation , object conservation , Asian Art , Japan

before and after fixing a crack


This beautiful Edo period lacquer box has been in the objects conservation lab receiving treatment. There are several decorative techniques that make this box so interesting. You can see small white specks in the petals of the flowers, this is called eggshell lacquer and is made with tiny pieces of eggshell spread in the lacquer. You can also see a yellow metal coming through the lacquer in some areas with a halo look, this is a metal leaf applied underneath the layers of lacquer, where the metal is brightest the lacquer is thinner. The reason for coming to the lab was a small crack running down the center of its lid. The crack extended through the lacquer layers into the brown ground layer underneath, this caused a disruption in the surface decoration and was visually distracting. The exposed ground layers were consolidated to prevent crumbling before applying a fill material that mimicked the appearance of the lacquer surface. Where the floral and metal decoration was disrupted by the crack, small connecting lines were painted on with gold mica pigments to continue the design.


Image Credit: Unidentified Artist (Japanese), Covered Box, Edo Period, lacquer, eggshell lacquer, gold, mother of pearl, Gift of Margaret A. Hayden, 2017.48a-b.