A Research Survey into Stucco Decorations and Clay Statues (Part 2)

“Dio Fluviale”, a clay statue by Michelangelo Buonarroti, the restoration of which was completed in 2017
Stucco Decorations in the 17th century (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta)

 The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has been conducting research and surveys investigating stucco decorations in fiscal year 2021 as part of the “International Research on Technology for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage” program, which offers grants for research expenses. On September 11th, 2021, we held a second discussion with experts from Europe involved in the conservation of stucco decorations.
 In this discussion, the use of glue made of seaweed and “Kami Susa” (binder made of “Washi” – Japanese paper – and used as part of plaster) attracted participants’ interest. These materials began to be made in order to control the plaster thickness and prevent plaster from cracking in the Edo era, when the demand for plaster walls increased. While many creative techniques and materials have been developed in Europe, where there is a long history of stucco decorations, their materials are different from those in Japan. Thus, we agreed to add the data of additives, which have been used in each country and region, as well as in different periods, as the comparative target items in our ongoing research and create a database of them.
 In relation to these findings, we plan to pursue our research on how the constituents included in various additives chemically affect stucco decorations. Different materials, their natures, and the techniques used to create stucco decorations, have different impacts on the deterioration due to aging as well as how the decoration is damaged over a long period. These studies are extremely important for determining the most suitable methods for their conservation and restoration.
 This research and survey began with the focus on stucco decorations. However, our deep analysis of their history enabled us to recognize the close relationship with clay statues. We plan to expand our research on the clay statues that share many common materials and creation techniques and pursue research on how to conserve them and preserve their heritage in the most suitable ways.

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