From 5 to 29 September 2016, a master class was held in the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Oriental Painting on “The study of the theory and practice of restoration of traditional Chinese silk scrolls” as part of a project of collaboration between the State Hermitage and the Shanghai Museum (Shanghai. PRC).
This year, at the invitation of the Hermitage, two leading specialists from the B.Y. Lam Painting and Calligraphy Mounting Research Room, Mr CHU Hao and SHEN Hua, gave a master class for the Hermitage’s restorers. This visit was the fourth stage in the collaboration that began in 2011 between the two laboratories engaged in the restoration of works of Chinese painting.
The practical restoration work was preceded by a scientific seminar at which the specialists from Shanghai gave two presentations about methods of restoration and the formation of styles of framing for Chinese scrolls. This took place in the library of the Department of the East for restorers and curators from the Hermitage and also invited members of staff from other museums.
The master class began with an examination of the work suggested to the Chinese restorers by the keeper of Chinese painting, Dr Kira Feodorovna Samosiuk. This was a horizontal scroll made up of two paintings by an artist of the first half of the 18th century, Chen Mian. The paintings were in a grave condition: completely covered with vertical fractures, threatening the loss of numerous fragments of the dried-out fragile silk. They had been unskilfully mounted in the common setting of the horizontal scroll. This form of mounting did not accord with the aesthetics of framing scrolls in the 18th century. Since the mounting was of a later date and not authentic, a collegial decision was taken to carry out a complex of restoration work on the paintings and to mount them each separately in new settings.
The restorers had brought all the tools and materials required for the master class with them from Shanghai. In the course of the tutorial they demonstrated and explained the succession of all the processes involved in the restoration and mounting of a painting on silk into a scroll. The young Hermitage restorers had the opportunity to observe the well co-ordinated work of two Chinese masters and to perform training operations under their guidance. Each stage in the work on the scroll was strictly structured in terms of timing and the order of operations. The process continued for over three weeks with intervals for flattening and drying after the lining of the Chinese paper, the silk and the painting itself.
On one of the days, the visiting specialists viewed several works of Chinese painting on display and in storage, discussing certain questions of attribution with the keeper and giving recommendations about storage and restoration.
Throughout the master class, CHU Hao and SHEN Hua demonstrated a high level of professionalism and experience.
The master class on “The study of the theory and practice of restoration of traditional Chinese silk scrolls” came to a successful end. It was undoubtedly important and beneficial for the professional improvement of the Hermitage restorers, but no less important was the fact that two works of Chinese painting from the museum’s stocks have now been restored.
This master class represents a new level of development for the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Oriental Painting.
The Hermitage’s staff spent almost two years preparing and organizing this master class and it was made possible through the financial support of the Delzell Foundation.