Conservation in Action: Japanese Buddhist Sculpture in a New Light

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Visitors have the rare opportunity to observe while seven important Japanese Buddhist sculptures are conserved by Objects Conservators at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). The objects of worship—dating from the 9th to the 12th centuries—depict Buddhas, Guardian Kings, and a Wisdom King.

An entire gallery is being converted into a public Conservation in Action lab where conservators will carefully clean the wooden sculptures—all decorated with polychromy or gilding—and secure areas of loose paint, lacquer, and gilding. This new setting will also allow conservators and curators to look closely at the sculptures with the Museum’s research scientists, identifying the original artists’ materials, documenting early restorations and collaborating with wood anatomists in Japan to confirm the wood identifications. Also on view in the gallery are three additional sculptures that show different examples of sculptural techniques and styles.

After they are conserved, the seven sculptures will return to the MFA’s refurbished Buddhist Temple Room, which was designed in 1909 and evokes the dignified simplicity of Japanese temples.

Feature Photo:  Tamonten, the Guardian of the North. (Heian period; latter half of the 9th century)