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Friday, June 1 • 10:30am - 11:00am
(Research and Technical Studies + Wooden Artifacts) Another Look at Conserving a Japanned High Chest

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A growing awareness of East Asian influence in our Western world has spurred a reconsideration of many of the rare American Japanned objects from the first half of the 18th century. Among these is a sometimes celebrated high chest in the Art Museums collection at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (CWF). One of only about 15 such Japanned forms known, the bulk of the artistic merit of the cabinet lies in the decoration attributed to Robert Davis of Boston, around the 1730’s. Because the iconography of these—mainly Boston made—Japanned objects continues to be something of a mystery among many decorative arts scholars, the material make up has become the obvious necessary foundation to our understanding of such mannerist artistic expressions. In this paper the CWF high chest is presented with an eye toward understanding the original materials and design intent, as well as the reinterpretation of some of these lost and poorly restored elements. Like many of its cousins, this Japanned cabinet has seen several campaigns of restoration in its lifetime. With time, the raised ornament seems to have failed in many of these surfaces and the multiple restorations appear to have veered further from the maker’s vision with each campaign. Some attention will be paid to the choices of material and technique in the restorative process as well. The study and analyses that preceded the on-going treatment featured photography with visible light, ultra-violet, Infra-red, and x-ray. Analyses for materials identification featured X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, FTIR spectroscopy, SEM with EDX, and visible and fluorescence cross-section microscopy. Combining the findings from these analytical techniques has provided a fairly comprehensive picture of the materials in the surface decoration. They have also revealed a few surprises in makeup, as well as a much-needed road map for the treatment protocol. The project reflects a vital collaboration between the CWF Analytical Lab and Wood Artifacts Lab. Insights gleaned from this exploration and treatment will hopefully inspire other owners to reconsider their objects with the hope of new exhibits and a better understanding of interpretation.

avatar for Christopher Swan

Christopher Swan

Senior Conservator, Furniture, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Chris is a furniture and wooden artifacts Conservator at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Virginia where he has been since February, 1999, and where he also completed his third-year graduate internship, and a Getty post-graduate internship from 1994-1996. In between positions... Read More →

avatar for Kirsten T. Moffitt

Kirsten T. Moffitt

Conservator & Materials Analyst, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Kirsten Travers Moffitt is a conservator of painted surfaces with a specialty in the microscopy and analysis of historic finishes. She received her B.F.A. in Fine Art from the State University of New York at Purchase in 1997, and spent the next eleven years working as a decorative... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 10:30am - 11:00am MDT
Kingwood Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston