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Archive for Sunday, April 17, 2005

Endangered paintings to be taken from tomb

April 17, 2005

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— A Cultural Affairs Agency group is considering dismantling the stone chamber of the Takamatsuzuka tomb in Asukamura, Nara Prefecture, and removing the wall paintings and stone walls for permanent preservation.

The working group, part of the Takamatsuzuka tomb paintings permanent preservation commission, has concluded it cannot prevent mold from forming on the murals and deteriorating if they are left in the chamber.

The paintings are national treasures, dating to the eighth century. It will be the first time a special national historic site is dismantled for preservation.

However, the group headed by Takeshi Ishizaki, director of the department of conservation science at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, found it difficult to peel the paintings from the wall.

The working group will develop a joint proposal on a preservation method at its meeting Tuesday and submit it to the commission in May.

The agency said there were cracks in the murals and plaster, adding the paintings were barely adhering to the stone walls because of moisture and are in an extremely fragile condition. The agency managed to peel murals from the walls of the Kitora tomb in Asukamura, in part because sections of the wall paintings and their plaster undercoats were in an advanced stage of separation from the walls.

The agency said it was likely the plaster undercoat would separate from the paintings at Takamatsuzuka tomb if it tried to peel them from the walls.

Moreover, the agency said because the plaster undercoat had been reinforced with a synthetic resin, it would be difficult to peel from the walls.

The agency said it had little choice but to remove the paintings for preservation as it could neither prevent white mold from growing nor insects, which transmit the mold, from entering the chamber. Insecticide only would cause the wall paintings to fade, the agency added.

After discussions, most members of the group agreed the paintings should be removed from the stone chamber and preserved at another location.

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