Conservation of rare books

Makiko Tsunoda was Icon intern in Manuscript and Rare Book Conservation, sponsored by the Sumitomo Foundation, until April 2013.

Welcome to the conservation students’ and interns’ blog! The primary aim of my internship is to conserve rare books and manuscripts held in the Founder’s Library of the Fitzwilliam Museum. This is taking up the majority of my time, and allows me to expand my skills and knowledge regarding condition assessment, planning, and book conservation treatments.

The Founder's Library in the Fitzwilliam Museum (left); and some of the rare books I have been conserving (right)

The Founder’s Library in the Fitzwilliam Museum (left); and some of the rare books I have been conserving (right)

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More painting reconstructions: gilding and punching

In the previous post, I shared my experiences of making a reconstruction from a detail of Virgin Adoring the Child by Jacopo del Sellaio (dated c. 1473). While creating the copy, I learned about the materials and methods utilized for painting with egg tempera. The use of egg tempera is characteristic of early Italian paintings. Similarly, decorative gilding goes hand-in-hand with early Italian artworks. Halos of saints, fabrics, and even entire backgrounds can all be depicted in gold. A range of gilding techniques could be employed, depending on the visual effect the artist wanted to achieve.

Virgin and Child by Niccola di Pietro Gerini – Fitzwilliam Museum

Virgin and Child by Niccola di Pietro Gerini – Fitzwilliam Museum

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Examination of an ancient Egyptian inlaid eye

This post was written last year by Alexandra Zappa, a former objects conservation intern in the Department of Antiquities. Alex graduated from UCL with an MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums in 2012 and is currently working as a conservator in the United States.

One of the projects I was involved with since the beginning of my internship is the technical examination of a group of Ancient Egyptian inlaid eyes. The Ancient Egyptians used inlaid eyes in a variety of objects including statues, coffin masks, anthropoid coffins, in rectangular coffins and inlaid into the eyes of mummies.

Alex Zappa examining an inlaid ancient Egyptian eye under the microscope

Alex Zappa examining an inlaid ancient Egyptian eye under the microscope

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Reconstructing a 15th-century panel painting

Pia and I are currently first-year students at the Hamilton Kerr Institute (HKI). During the three-year training program, we will receive theoretical and practical instruction in the conservation treatments of easel paintings. We work in the studio alongside two third-year students, six interns, and staff members.The best way to learn about the materials and techniques used by past artists is to make reconstructions of paintings. Any visitor only needs to look at the walls of the HKI office to realize how big a role reconstructions play in the work of the Institute. They are covered with copies of paintings – from 15th-century Italian to Impressionist! Many of them are extensive research projects completed by previous third-year students and interns. Practical research can provide unique insights into the working practices of different artists. Some answers can only be obtained by getting your hands dirty!

Reconstructions hanging in the Hamilton Kerr Institute

Reconstructions hanging in the Hamilton Kerr Institute

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