by Sarah Berlinger, Technician
We’ve wrapped up the two-year long thangka conservation project with the Mead Art Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, and we want to tell everyone about one of the later parts of the project: the construction of new mounts for unmounted thangkas. While most of the thangkas we conserved from the Mead came in their existing silk and cotton mounts,
four paintings arrived sans surrounds. They are a folksier style of painting, possibly made by itinerant painters. The decision to remount was made by Elizabeth Barker, Director and Chief Curator of the Mead, in order to return the paintings to their full glory.
The first step of the remounting project was to find the appropriate fabrics. After thorough online and in-store research, we found a blue cotton that we liked, but didn’t think was a rich enough hue. After dyeing the fabric with navy dye, the color was perfect. We also found a loose-weave linen that was ideal as the backing fabric. Following the procurement of the desired fabrics, the next step was to determine the proper sizes of the new mounts. To do this, we measured completed thangkas of similar types and used the same proportions to figure out the right size. I haven't done that much math in years! Next, the blue fabric pieces were attached to the thangka using the painting's previously existing stitch holes.
After attaching the new blue fabric to the front of the paintings, we installed the linen backing fabric. Following that, we attached Veltex headers and footers to the backing fabric, to enable safe hanging of the thangkas in the museum. Once the four new mounts were completed, the thangkas were returned to the Mead Art Museum. Currently, the smallest remounted thangka is on exhibit in "Picturing Enlightenment: Thangka in the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College." The first group of 9 thangkas will be exhibited until January 1, 2012. After that, the second group of 9 thangkas will go on display until June 2012 and include the remaining three remounted pieces.
Be sure to catch Camille Breeze's lecture Opening Doors: Conserving the Mead Art Museum’s Thangka Collection at the museum at 4:30 p.m. on October 19, 2011. A complete schedule of exhibition events can be found on the Mead Art Museum website at https://www.amherst.edu/museums/mead/ .
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