spring 2010 friends lecture series

Conservation in Focus: Preserving Painted Architectural Decoration at the Mountain Resort of the Qing Emperors

Tuesday, 12 January 2010
17.30 - 18.30, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

Japanese Garden
The Shuxiang Temple, Imperial Mountain Resort, Chengde, China. Photo: Getty Conservation Institute

Speaker(s): Lorinda Wong (Project Specialist, the Getty Conservation Institute)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Conservation of Wall Painting Department and Conservation & Technology Department (The Courtauld)

In China, architectural painting of Qing wooden buildings has traditionally been restored — repainted — rather than conserved. Recently, this practice has been changing, with conservation becoming a more favoured and viable option. But deciding whether to conserve or restore remains much debated. There is no accepted approach to decision-making that provides a clear, systematic and unbiased process for evaluating options and determining the most appropriate solution for a given site. With the risks posed by rapid development, the Getty Conservation Institute working with Chinese authorities focused on this problem. We used as our case study the painted architectural decoration of the Shuxiang Temple, one of the Outlying Temples of the Imperial Mountain Resort at Chengde. Adopting a values-based decision-making process, as advocated in the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China, the aim was to offer a model of a methodical and transparent approach to ensure best practice and responsible management of heritage sites with architectural paintings in China.

The Spring 2010 Friends Lecture Series is supported by the Friends of The Courtauld Institute of Art.

The many faces of conservation are presented in this series of lectures: from concerted efforts to preserve endangered authentic architectural polychromy in China, to interfacing with public perceptions of what is a mostly an invisible activity at the British Museum, to a spectacularly simple yet effective method for visualising remains of Egyptian blue on ancient art. Technical studies are a traditional strength of The Courtauld and three of the lectures will explore paintings methods, beginning with 17th-century Holland and recent analysis of paintings by Vermeer and Bol, then moving to 20th-century Italy and the Spatialist art of Fontana.

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