As part of the enhancement of the cultural heritage of the Milanese collections - linked to the Expo 2015 event - a series of works of oriental art was entrusted to the restoration laboratory for the establishment of the new Museum of Cultures in the Ex Area Ansaldo.
The intervention was conducted on four Japanese and Chinese wooden Buddhas, the Imperial Japanese draughts sedan and a series of lacquered wooden artefacts adorned with metals and mother-of-pearl. Their restoration, compelling and characterized by constant reflections on the choices of method, always shared with the scientific direction of the conservators of the Civic Collections, was oriented both to the restoration of the material integrity and the aesthetic usability of the objects and their new exhibition destination, with the intent to preserve the testimonies related to the conservative history, to the devotional function and to the practical use of the objects.
The intervention on Asian artefacts has proved particularly challenging not only for the technical-operational aspects but also for the need for a profound methodological reflection before the cleaning phase of the Buddhas, respecting the maintenance history of the artefacts, their value as objects of worship and with the aim of rendering the good usable. Even in the case of the imperial sedan (Onna norinomo) the privilege of dealing with a very precious and complex artefact, synthesis of the techniques and materials of the Japanese artistic tradition, required the utmost attention to the study and research of the least invasive intervention methods, rehabilitating degradation situations to ensure proper conservation at the exhibition site. Another aspect that made this restoration particularly challenging was the presence of different materials (wood, lacquer, gilding, metal, paper, silk, bamboo) that had reacted differently to the deterioration, the thermohygrometric oscillations and the mechanical stress due to use, in addition to damage caused by old restoration.
The complexity of the interventions and the methodological reflections that accompanied this fascinating intervention have been the subject of a specific publication:
A.R. Nicola, N. Pisano, L. Di Mucci, P. Surano, Restauri per il Museo delle Culture – Ansaldo: aspetti della conservazione e dell’intervento di restauro dei manufatti di arte orientale, appartenenti alle collezioni civiche milanesi in Lo stato dell’Arte 12, Atti del Congresso Nazionale IGIIC, Milano – Accademia di Belle arti di Brera, Nardini Editore, 23-24 ottobre 2014
Manual skills, technology and science in an artisan restoration workshop