Event: Teatime, What Every Conservator Needs to Know About the Complexity of Asian Lacquer

Date & Time

April 22, 2022 - 11:00am to 12:00pm
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Contact Information

Céline Wachsmuth



Event Type

Conservation Conversation

Event Details

Marianne Webb
Webb Conservation Services

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Asian lacquer is one of those materials that most furniture and object conservators encounter occasionally during their career. Unfortunately, conservation efforts can go dramatically wrong when a sensitive lacquer surface is treated inappropriately. A lustrous black surface can instantaneously turn to a milky brown color. During the active history of an Asian lacquer object this can occur when serving warm sushi or a hot cup of tea. For conservators it can occur during cleaning or consolidation.

Fortunatelyour understanding of Asian lacquer surfacehas dramatically improved over the last few years. The Getty Conservation Institute is leading the research that demonstrates Asian lacquer is a complex mixture of one or more anacard lacquers with additives such as oil, pigments and resins. Now that we are learning more about the complex nature of the surfacewe are beginning to understand how the ingredients affect the behavior.

Marianne Webb is an independent conservator and researcher on the west coast of Canada. For 29 years she was the Decorative Arts Conservator at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto where she developed her keen interest inAsian and western lacquer. Currently she is collaborating with the Getty Conservation Institute on their research into the characterization of Asian lacquer and developing cleaning techniques for these complicated surfaces. 

Marianne earnean honor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of Toronto and a diploma in Art Conservation Techniques from Sir Sanford Fleming College. A founding member of the ICOM-Committee for Conservation -Working Group on Lacquer, she served as its coordinator for 12 years. She received the Samuel H. Kress Publication Fellowship in 1997 from the American Institute for Conservation. The resulting manuscript was published in 2000 as Lacquer: Technology and Conservation.In 2020 she received the Charles Mervin Ruggles Award from the Canadian Association foConservation of Cultural Property.