The paintings and calligraphy team

This painting is unsigned.

It doesn’t have any inscriptions about who, when, or why it was created.

It doesn’t even have a title.

Experts analyse that the painting depicts Emperor Qianlong celebrating his mother’s 80th birthday.

This painting is 250 years old.

Parts of it are missing or damaged.

Staff on the team discuss restoration work. They have to prioritise.

Most ancient Chinese paintings were drawn on paper or silk, thin and easily damaged.

Without the work of generations of art restorers, this painting would have been long gone.

The painting was mostly likely placed in the Shou’an Palace originally.

Staff joke that the man on the left looks like a famous contemporary skit actor.

In the painting, children light up firecrackers for the dowager’s birthday.

After an intense round of work and discussion, they relax with music.

The painting depicts different expressions and postures of the court officials.

Each official came bearing gifts.

Emperor Qianlong on the right was 61 years old at the time.

Staff analyse the pigments used in the painting.

Meanwhile, another team are trying to mount an ancient painting to a wall.

It not done carefully, the painting would rip.

Even trying to put on a layer of paper on the back of the painting is troublesome work, as many types of paper used in ancient paintings are now no longer available.

The painting depicting the 80th birthday of Emperor Qianlong’s mother was transferred to another room.

For scanning and documentation.

Less famous paintings are harder to restore, as they weren’t preserved as carefully.

There are four key steps to the restoration of paintings.

The first one is wash.

With a towel, a brush, and hot water.

The towel dipped in hot water can soften the glue and remove grime.

But to a layman, it’s scary to watch an ancient painting being “washed” with water.

The second step is lift.

With a pair of tweezers.

To lift the layer on the back of the painting.

They have to then analyse the material used in the painting and try to find matching ones.

The patches of silk used in restoration have to match the original colour of the painting.

They also keep samples of the fabric used in each painting, for future reference.

Cooking glue.

The third step is paste.

Which means adding small strips of paper to the back of the painting to fill in the holes.

The fourth step is fill.

Fill in the missing parts of the painting with colours.

This painting, A Spring Outing, is the oldest landscape painting on silk in the Palace Museum. It was painted in the Sui Dynasty, about 1,400 years ago.


To be continued . . .

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