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Subject: Paintings on silk

Paintings on silk

From: Caroline Mary Fry <cmfry>
Date: Tuesday, June 1, 2004
I am an Australian painting conservator working on a small project
in Hanoi, at the Vietnam Museum of Fine Arts.  One of the items in
collection which requires treatment is a silk painting (1974)
approximately 600 x 1000mm.   In the absence of a trained textile
conservator here in Vietnam, I wanted to assist the technicians in
the museum in devising a treatment.

Silk paintings are an important artistic medium in Vietnam, and
there are several hundred in the Museum, many of which require
urgent and major conservation treatment. The painting is on fine
plain weave silk support, with the image painted in oil paint which
has been applied very thinly, like a wash.

The silk has been fully laid down onto rice paper backing adhered
with rice paste.  I believe this is a standard method of 'mounting'
the artwork.  The artwork has suffered  insect grazing, (probably
silverfish or the like)  which has eaten only the silk layer of the
work, leaving the rice paper backing exposed.  There is also some
silk shatter across the work, but overall the work is fairly well
adhered to the backing.  There are areas of mould damage, which has
caused some fading of the pigment layer and spotting.  The backing
layer is slightly cockled from humidity /environmental conditions. My
view is always to do the minimum.

My colleagues suggested a backing removal and readhesion onto a new
support.  But, I think this may cause great damage to the already
weakened silk fibres.  I was thinking to do some basic tread repair,
using polyester thread (if I can find a suitable one) bridging the
areas of shatter.

Can anyone suggest what I should recommend use as an insert into the
grazed areas, and the type of adhesive best used with silk?  The
inserts needs to be toned and coloured to match the silk.  And to
reduce cockling, should  humidify the backing paper, and flatten
under weights?  Will this cause any damage to the silk? Then my idea
was to mount the work like a work on paper in an archival mount,
with a spacer between artwork and glazing.

Thanks a lot for this advice.  If any textile conservator wants to
work in Vietnam, there is  more than a lifetime's work here!

Caroline Fry
Painting Conservator
Ian Potter Art Conservation Service
The University of Melbourne

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:72
                   Distributed: Friday, June 4, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-17-72-021
Received on Tuesday, 1 June, 2004

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