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Subject: Iron armatures in Chinese ceramics

Iron armatures in Chinese ceramics

From: Stephen Koob <koobs>
Date: Wednesday, November 27, 1996
Lisa Bruno <lbruno [at] hotmail__com> writes

>For the recent reinstallation of the Chinese Galleries at The
>Brooklyn Museum, I treated a tomb model of a Horse and Rider.
>...
>An iron armature has been fired into the ceramic at the horse's
>front and back legs.  The armature is completely mineralized and has
>caused the ceramic to break at both legs.

Here at the Freer, we have not seen iron armatures fired into
Chinese ceramics of the Northern Wei Dynasty or other tomb models
(and we have radiographed a few).  This technique is generally
inconsistent with the ceramics manufacturing techniques of the
period, but has been referenced in:

    Strahan, D. and Boulton, A. "Chinese ceramic quadrupeds:
    construction and restoration", in The Conservation of Far
    Eastern Art, Contributions to the 1988 IIC Kyoto Congress,
    149-154.

The reference is:

    Fernald, H.E. " Discovery of iron armatures and supports in
    Chinese grave figurines of the sixth and early seventh
    centuries", Far Eastern Ceramics Bulletin 11 (1950) 105-108.

You should also keep in mind that this could be a restoration, and
what you might have is a pastiche of original (with a good TL date)
and a restoration consistent with what has been done to these
figures (see Strahan and Boulton article).

Stephen Koob
Department of Conservation and Scientific Research
Freer Gallery of Art
Smithsonian Institution
Washington DC 20560
202-357-4880 x276

                                  ***
                  Conservation DistList Instance 10:51
               Distributed: Wednesday, November 27, 1996
                       Message Id: cdl-10-51-004
                                  ***
Received on Wednesday, 27 November, 1996

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