A Research Survey into Stucco Decorations

A Kote-e by Chohachi Irie (Zenpuku-ji Temple, Tokyo)
Stucco decoration in the Ticino style

 Stucco decorations are distinct in their form and purpose, and they can be found in various parts of the world. The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation began research and surveys investigating stucco decorations in fiscal 2021 as part of a the “International Research on Technology for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage” program, which offers grants for research expenses. The purpose of this program is to track how stucco decorations have been propagated to different regions as they repeatedly evolve and deteriorate in quality, and to understand and verify how efforts are being made to conserve and restore these decorations in different countries today. On May 29, experts involved in the conservation of stucco decorations, mainly in Europe, participated in an online discussion.
 In an exchange of opinions, the topic of stucco decorations in the Ticino region of Switzerland were introduced, which laid the foundation for stucco decoration in Europe from the Mediterranean coastal regions and from the 16th to 18th centuries. From Japan, we introduced what we have learned from our research so far, including kote-e (plaster relief paintings) made using traditional plaster, the stucco techniques and materials that were popularized alongside pseudo-Western-style architecture, which imitated Western architecture from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period, and also the current maintenance status of these works.
 Participating experts expressed surprise that many common points can be found in techniques and materials across different countries and time periods. They also agreed to jointly study methods for conservation and restoration aimed at improving the current situation, as there are many similarities regarding maintenance and management issues.
 In the future, while continuing with our research surveys in Japan, we will recruit overseas research collaborators, and expand the scope of our research domains. In addition, we would like to accumulate information through exchanges of opinions and the sharing of research results, deepen understanding of stucco decorations, and opening a forum for the consideration of how to both conserve them and pass them down to future generations.

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