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Wednesday, May 15 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Textiles) Erasing a Problematic Past: A New Application of Paper Conservation Expertise in the Corrective Treatment of a 17th-Century Chinese Tapestry

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In 2011, a 17th-century Chinese tapestry was acquired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art at auction. The tapestry portrays a number of groups of small boys at play, it is generally referred to as the “100 Boys” tapestry. In this tapestry, the boys engage in activities such as falconry, archery, fishing, boating, reading, and others. Several boys are depicted with symbolic references: for example, one has a three-legged frog, which carries the meaning of great wealth. This type of tapestry would be woven to express the longing for a family’s prosperity. Upon its arrival in the lab, the tapestry’s condition was assessed and prospective treatment was discussed. Different from European tapestry, Chinese tapestry has its warp in the vertical direction and weft in the horizontal direction. In this particular tapestry, a beige weft had disintegrated badly, exposing bare warps. The color was widely used in the large designs of the background in the lower portion of the tapestry, where most of the severe damage with the warp and weft loss was identified. This fragile condition had been worsened by earlier attempts to stabilize the tapestry’s already aggravated situation by attaching fabric patches and then putting strips of pressure-sensitive tape in layers on the tapestry's reverse. A total of 101 strips of pressure-sensitive tape were counted in 33 different locations! Based on thorough examination, this pressure-sensitive tape, similar to Scotch™ tape, had been adhered for a long period of time and could not easily be removed by simple mechanical force. Removal of pressure-sensitive tapes would be challenging as the material itself is not popularly used in the various historic treatments. Therefore, a textile conservator would not normally deal with it on a daily basis. In addition, the tapestry's large scale (90 in. high x 70 in. wide) made exhibition design and planning more complicated. In-depth discussions among textile conservators both within and outside the Museum took place to find an ideal approach to removing this pressure-sensitive tape. The entire treatment of the tapestry was not carried out systematically because of the departure of the curator in charge of the project. Therefore, the tapestry was put aside at the end of 2011 and kept in storage until it was reviewed by the new curator and included in an upcoming 2018 exhibition. Six years of time gap between the initial treatment and the following one contributed additional problems to the tapestry, which had to be addressed prior to its hanging in the gallery. This paper will present the journey of correcting one of the worst nightmares a textile conservator could possibly encounter---one which would take more than eight years to be resolved.

avatar for Minsun Hwang

Minsun Hwang

Conservator, Metropolitan Museum of Art/ Department of Textile Conservation
Minsun Hwang, Conservator, has worked at the museum since 2002. She is responsible for Chinese textiles and costumes and Korean textiles from the Department of Asian Art in the Museum’s textile collection. Minsun received her M.A. in Museum Studies: Costumes and Textile Conservation... Read More →

Wednesday May 15, 2019 3:00pm - 3:30pm EDT
Oneida/Penobscot Rooms Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Textiles