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Friday, June 1 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Problematic Materials) The painting’s life, silk or paper: materials and methods for lining a 15th-century Chinese handscroll at the Cleveland Museum of Art

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Asian scroll paintings are executed on delicate and fragile materials such as silk. Many of the aging scrolls already show different degrees of natural deterioration. For treating these scrolls, remounting and replacing the first lining is a crucial step to stabilizing the damages. The first lining is also called Life paper, indicating that it is crucial to the life of a painting. Paintings on silk with the extensive loss to the silk support have been found lined overall with a sheet of silk to compensate/back-fill the losses. This is considered a “lazy” way to disguise losses as opposed to the method of infilling the losses individually with silk trimmed to the same shapes as the losses. Silk bonds much better to paper than it does to another layer of silk; therefore, lining a painting on silk with a whole sheet of silk requires thicker and stronger paste to bind two sheets of silk well. If two sheets of silk are not well adhered they will delaminate more readily with rolling and unrolling; these delaminations can eventually lead to losses to the painting silk. Is it true that lining with silk is a “lazy” way? Are there other reasons why an overall silk lining may be preferable in terms of the scroll’s context or the condition? Some Japanese Buddhist paintings are lined with a whole sheet of silk simply because silk is expensive and considered more luxurious and thus, is the best material to show proper reverence to the deity or deities represented in the painting. At the CMA, a silk painting in a handscroll format had been treated in the past with an overall silk lining. This handscroll was recently remounted due to the delamination between the primary and lining silks. When the lining silk of this handscroll was taken off, extensive tiny losses and spider web-like creases were revealed with transmitted light. Here lies the crux of this discussion: if the losses are compensated using an overall silk lining, it might cause the same problem of delamination. If lined with sheets of paper, the losses then have to be infilled with trimmed silk, and with extensive losses, this is extremely time-consuming. Most of the losses are the size of pencil dots, so infilling with the same size of trimmed silk is impractical: there is not enough material (surface area) to paste down and the infills would just fall off due to poor adhesion. Furthermore, trimming the infill silk to the exact shapes of the losses and then reinforcing the inlaid perimeter would result in too many overlapping reinforcement strips. Finally, a painting will shrink or expand differently than the fills while drying, resulting in gaps around losses; with numerous tiny infills, all of the resulting gaps present a concern. In this presentation, the advantages and disadvantage of lining with silk or with paper for Asian silk paintings are compared and discussed. The filling and lining materials and methods for a 15th-century handscroll at the CMA are introduced.

avatar for Yi-Hsia Hsiao

Yi-Hsia Hsiao

Conservator, Cleveland Museum of Art
Yi-Hsia is an associate conservator working on Chinese paintings, and Thangka paintings in the Asian painting conservation studio, Conservation Department, in the Cleveland Museum of Art since 2014. Before settled down in Cleveland, she was an Andrew W. Mellon fellow for Chinese paintings... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 3:00pm - 3:30pm MDT
Texas Ballroom C Marriott Marquis Houston