Academic thesis

Amelie Schwark: Investigations on the dating and conservation-restoration of two Japanese Guardians of the Directions (Shitennȏ, Edo period): The problem of an urushi coating on polychrome sculptures Back
Language: Original   -   Translation
Abstract: This thesis discusses the conservation and restoration of two polychrome wooden sculptures from Japan. The objects, manufactured in the Edo period, were purchased by Franz Ferdiand von Österreich-Este in the year 1893, during his journey around the world. Today, they are owned by the Weltmuseum in Vienna. The figures represent two oft the four Guardians of the Directions (jap.: Shitennō, Sanskrit: Lokapāla): Bishamonten (guardian of the north) and Zôchôten (guardian of the south). They are made out of multiple pieces of wood (possibly cypress), and the heads are likely to be later additions. An isolating black layer (probably urushi) has been applied directly on the wood. The ground layer contains shell lime, oil and animal glue as binding agent, and the paint layers are mostly oil-bound. There are various numbers of overpaint layers on the different parts of the sculpture which are always restricted to a certain area. The sculptures are covered with a dark, objectionable urushi-coating that significantly effects the sculpture´s aesthetic perception. This lacquer-layer cannot be removed without risking damage to the layers underneath.
The treatment included surface cleaning, paint layer consolidation and retouching. The thesis also includes a conceptual plan for preventative conservation.


Keywords: Japanese lacquer, polychrome wooden sculpture, Shitennō, Lokapala, Bishamonten, Tamonten, Zôchôten, Guardians of the Directions, Deva, urushi
  • academic institution: Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien
  • kind of theses:  Diplomarbeit
  • main Tutor:  o.Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dipl.Ing. Wolfgang Baatz
  • assistant Tutor:  Mag. Dr. Isabella Kaml
  • date:  2013
  • Language:  German
  • pages:  225
  • pictures:  201

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