Skip to content

Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Edo Period Screen

by Conservation


conservation , behind the scenes , Asian Art , paper conservation , works on paper

Since our “Behind the Scenes in Conservation” posts have been so popular on social media, we’ve decided to give them more room to shine (and analyze and treat and conserve)! Each week, our conservation team highlights a project from one of their four specialty areas (paper, objects, textile or paintings conservation), giving you an exclusive look into the lab.

Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Our paper conservator has finished treatment of this Edo period (1615-1868) Japanese screen.   Here are some details you should look for when you see the screen, just installed in Gallery 136.  The artist used a variety of materials and techniques in the painting to produce complex effects. The gold leaf in the foreground is layered. Some of it is on a thick white ground to bring it out in front of the gold leaf that is on a thinner layer of brown paint (see the edges of the gold cloud below the figure). To decorate the robe and cart handles, gold was painted on with a brush and then sprinkled with small bits of gold leaf. Thick white paint was used to make some of the details three dimensional. The heart-shaped flower petals on the cart handles were built up with white paint then covered with a layer of black paint. The green robe is painted with a coarse green pigment, possibly malachite.  Some of the pigment has crumbled away, leaving a light green stain. This is in contrast to the smoother fine pigments in the blue undergarments and in the skin and hair. Look for more examples of these techniques in this screen and its companion screen, on display through August 2015.

Read more about Conservation at the Art Museum.


1964.720, Japan, (Depiction of ox carts), late 17th c., one of a pair, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Emery