Conservation Lab: Ancient Japanese Scroll.

Conservators working on Hanabusa Itchō’s 'Death of Buddha.' All photos courtesy of MFA Boston.

Conservators working on Hanabusa Itchō’s ‘Death of Buddha.’ All photos courtesy of MFA Boston.

If you visit the Museum of Fine Arts Boston these days, you can witness conservation in action on an enormous Japanese hanging scroll, which is currently being remounted in the Asian paintings gallery. Hanabusa Itchō’s masterpiece The Death of the Historical Buddha was painted in 1713 and entered the MFA Boston’s collection in 1911. Though it was last on view in 1990, the scroll hadn’t been treated since 1850. “Usually these scrolls are remounted every 100 years or so, which is why the project was a priority,” Jacki Elgar, Head of Asian Conservation at the museum, tells The Creators Project.

As time goes on, scroll mounts can begin to fail or damage the painting, she explains—this is the most common reason for treatment. A painting might also become a candidate for remounting if the mount is inappropriate (for example, a 16th century painting that is mounted in a 20th century style), or if it was put inside a frame by a Western collector, in which case it can be returned to its original, hanging scroll format.


The conservation of Death of Buddha continues in the MFA Boston galleries until January 16, 2017. To learn more about the conservators—who have all completed extensive ten-year training programs in Japan—click here. The Creators Project has the full story, this would be fascinating to see. If you have the chance to go, do it!


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