Skip to content

Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Wooden Cabinet Inlaid with Ivory and Brass

by Conservation


behind the scenes , objects conservation , CAMConservation , Mughal

This week in the objects conservation lab: A beautiful wooden cabinet inlaid with ivory and brass. When the cabinet is opened a stark contrast can be seen from the crisp clear design on the interior and the yellowed and much less defined design on the exterior. This difference is due to a very thick and discolored coating on the exterior surface that has darkened significantly to obscure the design underneath. This coating was noted as problematic by conservators when the object entered the collection in the 60’s. At that time the poor solubility of the coating prevented its removal, and as a result the cabinet has often been displayed closed. With our South Asian Galleries being renovated and reinstalled, the cabinet is due to be displayed once again, this time, open to show the interior drawers. Using a combination of new techniques and materials we are able to soften the coating enough to remove it, bringing out colors and details that have been obscured for decades! The photo shows a close up of the top of the cabinet where the coating has been removed on the left side revealing more detail and color especially in the tree design, and on the right side where the coating remains, dulling the colors of the leaves and the shine of the metal inlay. Once the coating has been removed, the next stage of treatment will start, which will address losses in the wood and design. Stay tuned for updates!

Cabinet, early 17th Century, Pakistan, Mughal period, wood with ivory and brass inlay, The William T. and Louise Taft Semple Collection, 1962.457