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The northern façade of the Church of Yemrehanna Kristos. Seen here within the cave which houses it
Image credit Stephen Battle/World Monuments Fund
Martin Bailey, writing in The Art Newspaper, reports that a team of British conservators will help preserve Ethiopia’s oldest wall paintings. The paintings are in the twelfth century Church of Yemrehanna Kristos in Northern Ethiopia –
A project to conserve Ethiopia’s oldest wall paintings, which experts believe date to around 1100 or soon after, is due to begin this month. They are in the church of Yemrehanna Kristos, a full-sized building constructed inside a cave in the Lasta Mountains at an altitude of 2,700m. The cave is above a valley of juniper trees and, until recently, could only be reached by a day’s journey on foot or mule from the town of Lalibela, in northern Ethiopia. The church’s interior is so dark that international specialists did not note the paintings’ existence until the 1990s; the first published account was in 2001.
The London-based Ethiopian Heritage Fund, with support from the World Monuments Fund, is undertaking the project. The conservation team consists of two British specialists, Lisa Shekede and Stephen Rickerby; the latter describes the paintings as being in a “highly vulnerable and threatened condition”.
The initial investigation will include in-situ microscopy, along with ultra-violet and infra-red examinations. Paint samples will be tested, partly to determine the original pigments and media used and to identify added materials. There will be small-scale cleaning trials, to test which materials should be used. Monitoring sensors will be installed to record temperature and humidity changes. A separate team from the University of Cape Town will undertake a laser scan survey to create a three- dimensional data model of the church and cave, to map structural movement.
The hoard has recently been moved and now housed in the museum at La Hougue Bie. Since its discovery, by two metal detectorists, conservators have been removing on average about 500 coins per week out of the estimated total of possibly 50,000! But it’s not only coins making up this most amazing mass, for once coins started being removed, gold torcs and jewellery began to reveal themselves and to date seven torcs have now been exposed! An estimated value of the whole package has been put at over £10m which is a phenomenal amount! Even though they were just recording on the day I was there, you are able to observe the conservators at work as they painstakingly take the hoard apart, cleaning and conserving the contents as they go.
A notice informs you that the coins are made from a mix of silver and copper and why they are now dark green
Also hidden in Jersey’s eastern countryside at La Hougue Bie and within its grounds, lies one of Europe’s finest prehistoric monuments. At the heart of this tranquil site stands a medieval church atop a prehistoric mound under which lies a 6,000-year-old Neolithic Cruciform Armorican Passage Grave. Without a doubt this is the Channel Islands jewel in the crown and an absolute ‘must see’.
Now that the hoard is safely housed in the purposely built lab it is more reason to pay the site a visit. You certainly won’t be disappointed that’s for sure, but do take a torch along with you to view the inside of the passage grave as the lighting is minimal! Alternatively, check out this excellent website that displays the chambered tomb superbly.
Jersey Heritage itself has a very informative website here and here. Within the museum is a fascinating geology and Ice-Age area aside from other coin hoards, axes, swords and spears belonging to Jersey’s Neolithic community.
As a reminder of more recent times, especially to the islanders (not that they need reminding that is) is a command bunker built during the German Occupation of Jersey and turned into a memorial dedicated to the slave-workers brought to the Channel Islands by invading Nazi forces during the Second World War and treated abominably. Personally, I chose not to enter this ‘museum in its own right’ as I find it too depressing and in a way not in keeping with the wonder of the other exhibits. Family memories and all that!
That aside, there is a large picnic area where you can enjoy a day out amongst the beautiful surroundings of this mainly peaceful and spiritual site.
A closer look at the hoard through the glass screen of the purposely built lab
A fantastic aerial view of the church atop the mound. The entrance to the passage grave can be observed to the left of the mound
The wonderfully constructed entrance to the passage grave
Both the grave and the church are orientated east/west, the tomb entrance facing east in common fashion. And just when the excitement of discovering the Celtic hoard at Grouville couldn’t have been more, this was then discovered at Trinity …again by a metal detectorist!
Say what you like about metal detectorists but without a doubt they have been responsible for re-writing much of our history by the finds they have made. In many cases it has been in areas not even considered by archaeologists so unlikely to have ever been discovered without their help. Such a shame that they are not given the credit due to them because of a small minority not playing by the rules and getting more attention than they deserve in certain quarters.
The Lunder Conservation Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum
At the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Lunder Conservation Center, visitors have the unique opportunity to see conservators at work in five different laboratories and studios. The Center features floor-to-ceiling glass walls that allow the public to view all aspects of conservation work–work that is traditionally done behind the scenes at other museums and conservation centers
Black on Maroon by Mark Rothko
The painting Black on Maroon (1958) by Mark Rothko is back on display at London’s Tate Modern after 18 months of conservation. The painting was vandalised in 2012 by Wlodzimierz Umaniec who subsequently spent almost a year and a half in prison. The original estimate for conserving the painting was £200,000. BBC News Entertainment & Arts reports –
Mark Rothko’s painting Black on Maroon has gone back on public display at London’s Tate Modern gallery, 18 months after it was vandalised with graffiti. The 1958 painting was defaced by Wlodzimierz Umaniec in October 2012. He was sent to prison as a result but has now apologised for his actions.
The Tate’s conservators have spent 18 months repairing the painting. Conservator Rachel Barker said: “It’s definitely better than I could have hoped at the beginning of the project.” She added: “The nature of the damage was such that we did think the worst.”
Ms Barker told BBC arts editor Will Gompertz the graffiti had covered “an area about the size of an LP” and some had seeped right to the back of the canvas. A vinyl record measures 12in (30cm) in diameter. The conservators first created a replica of the painting and added graffiti before cutting it into strips and testing different types of solvent to see which was most effective at removing the graffiti. They then retouched the damaged area.
Full article here.
Conservator Luisa Duarte cleaning a Romano-British sculpture of an eagle and serpent
Image credit Andy Chopping. Museum of London Archaeology/PA
Ian Constantinides, a leading figure in architectural conservation
17 September 1955 – 15 April 2013
Master Naohachi Usami, 8th generation head of the Kyoto Shōkaku-dō Conservation Studio, at work in 1978 on a Japanese painting
It is with very great sadness that The Heritage Trust reports the death this morning of Mr Naohachi Usami, 8th generation head of the Shōkaku-dō conservation studio in Kyoto – one of only a few studios in Japan accredited with conserving and restoring Japanese National Treasures and other pictorial works of national and international importance.
Beginning with his father, Naoyuki Usami, Naohachi Usami continued and promoted a policy of accepting and training foreign students in the centuries’ old Japanese tradition of mounting, restoring and conserving works of art on paper and silk. Some of those students studied at the Shōkaku-dō for only a few weeks, while others trained tirelessly there for a decade or more, eventually taking back to their respective countries skills and techniques which are now being used to conserve our precious heritage of Far Eastern pictorial art.
In Asia, Europe and the United States there are national museums and private conservation studios that have conservators, trained at the Shōkaku-dō, who are now working at those studios or running them. The Hirayama Asian Pictorial Art Conservation Studio at the British Museum is just one example which has grown out of Naohachi Usami and the Shōkaku-dō’s open-door policy towards training foreign students and will remain his abiding legacy to the world of Far Eastern pictorial art conservation.
Naohachi Usami was 86, he is succeeded by his son at the Shōkaku-dō, Mr Naohide Usami.
From The Kyoto Shimbun –