|■Tokyo National Research
Institute for Cultural Properties
||■Center for Conservation
|■Department of Art Research,
Archives and Information Systems
||■Japan Center for
International Cooperation in Conservation
|■Department of Intangible
Equestrian Statue of DATE Masamune (completed in 1935; the photo has been taken from a postcard)
Scene from the study meeting
Tōru KOMURO (1899-1953) was a sculptor born in Tsukinoki Town (current Shibata Town), Miyagi Prefecture, and the creator of the Equestrian Statue of DATE Masamune (completed in 1935), which is located in Sendai Castle. The work is famous as a symbol of the tourist destination, but so far, it has not been widely known how he produced the equestrian statue.
On August 26, 2019, Kyoko YASHIRO, an associate fellow at the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, made research presentations under the title “Basic Research on the Sculptor Tōru KOMURO,” analyzing the life and works of the sculptor based on the albums, diaries, and other materials he left and discussing the Equestrian Statue of DATE Masamune , one of his most prominent works.
KOMURO published his works in group exhibitions in Tokyo during the prewar period while in Miyagi, his native land, he produced portrait sculptures, bronze statues, and wood-carved works of local distinguished people. In these creative activities, he must have cultivated relationships with local influential and knowledgeable people and garnered their support. In her presentations, YASHIRO also made it clear that when he produced the Equestrian Statue of DATE Masamune , he adopted the opinions of Sendai’s local historians as much as possible and expressed the figure of DATE Masamune as a feudal lord that carried out peace projects.
Currently, energetic creative activities of sculptors in Tokyo are being clarified, but there are only a few materials to confirm in detail the works and movements of sculptors like KOMURO who developed productive activities in provincial areas, and therefore, it is necessary to further deepen research on these sculptors in the future.
At the recent study meeting, experts in the modern history of sculpture, including Mr. Satoshi KODAMA of the Local Museum of Shibata. which houses materials concerning KOMURO, Prof. Shuji TANAKA of Oita University, and Dr. Taiko TOBARI of the Asakura Museum of Sculpture, were invited as commentators, and there was active exchange of opinions about differences between KOMURO’s works in Tokyo and Miyagi and the style of the Equestrian Statue of DATE Masamune .
From the front page of the website for the Buddhist paintings in the Heian period (national treasures)
Transformed Buddha of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been jointly conducting research with the Tokyo National Museum on the Buddhist paintings in the Museum’s collection. Releasing the outcomes of the research, four Buddhist paintings belonging to the Heian period were published on their joint website (tnm-tobunken.tobunken.go.jp) on August 20th, 2019. They are pictures of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, Ākāshagarbha Bodhisattva, Sahasrabhuja Avalokitesvara, and Mahamayuri vidyaraja, which are designated National Treasures.
Although the paintings seem flat, layers of pigment are intricately deposited on the paper or silk cloth. You form an impression of the picture as a light complex is seen when daylight is reflected on or penetrates the layers. Traces of the painting process and what happened to the painting after its completion can be seen underneath.
Key clues to capture them are the information on the piled-up layers, as well as the data on materials such as the size and shape of the pigment particles, the texture of the silk cloth, and the thicknesses of its warp and weft. An optical survey is one of the effective methods to look beneath the surface without touching or collecting an analysis sample from the painting. The Institute was the first in Asia to start the optical survey for arts and crafts soon after its foundation as The Institute of Art Research in 1930. This joint research is also based on the accumulated know-how of that survey.
To make a fine depiction in a picture of the world of Buddha transcending this world, delicate patterns were drawn on the garment and ornaments of the Buddha during the Heian period. However, to protect these painting, few opportunities are given to appreciate them and confirm through close observation. This publication on the joint website enables visualizing high-definition images on a PC or a tablet computer. Photographs have now been taken under visible light providing an expanded and detailed view. Further details of the paintings will be provided by including their pictures taken by infrared, fluorescence, or X-ray photography, apart from the results of fluorescent X‐ray analysis, to distinguish the elements contained in the pigments. Looking forward to your anticipation for their forthcoming release.
Group photo with the participants after the basic workshop
Advanced workshop: practical work on documentation
Two workshops on the conservation of Japanese textiles were held at the Research Center for Conservation of Cultural Relics in National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), Taipei, from August 14th to 23rd, 2019. A basic workshop, “Cultural Properties of Textiles in Japan,” was conducted from August 14th to 16th, and an advanced workshop, “Conservation of Japanese Textiles,” was run from August 19th to 23rd. These workshops have been co-organized annually since 2017 by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and NTNU for the preservation and utilization of Japanese textiles overseas, as part of our joint research. The lectures and instructions were presented by researchers specialized in textiles and conservators from Japan and Taiwan. Conservators, curators and students from around the world participated in the workshop; there were 11 participants from 10 countries in the basic workshop and 6 participants from 5 countries in the advanced workshop.
The basic workshop included lectures on the systems for the protection of tangible and intangible cultural properties, textile and clothing materials, and representative textiles in Japan. The participants also experienced folding and displaying Japanese garments (kimono). In addition, the practical work on making a paper model of kimono helped the participants to understand the construction of kimono. The advanced workshop comprised lectures and practical work on topics such as the degradation of textiles, scientific analysis of dyes, and cleaning of textiles. Furthermore, the participants experienced stitching a support silk fabric to the back of an old textile fragment and making a Japanese traditional folder for it. This served as an opportunity for the participants to comprehend Japanese approaches to textile conservation. In both workshops, case studies on display and conservation of Japanese textiles were shared, and opinions regarding conservation approaches, materials and methods were actively exchanged.
It is expected that introducing fundamental knowledge about Japanese textiles and their conservation to conservation specialists overseas could contribute to the better conservation and utilization of Japanese textile objects outside Japan.
Examining utilization strategies with local experts
Yuwakha village in Punakha, one of the surveyed settlements
Since 2012, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has been conducting joint architectural research on rammed earth buildings in Bhutan with the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites (DCHS), Department of Culture, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, the Royal Government of Bhutan. From this fiscal year, TNRICP has started the Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project, which was commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, with the objective of providing technical support and capacity building for the conservation and utilization of historic buildings in Bhutan. As a part of this project, a team of 11 experts, including TNRICP staff and outside experts, conducted on-site fieldwork from 20th to 28th August, 2019.
The field survey was jointly conducted with DCHS staff and covered traditional houses in the dzongkhags (districts) of Thimphu, Punakha, and Haa. The three main objectives were establishing a methodology for their conservation and repair, studying alternatives for their sustainable utilization, and clarifying the criteria for their evaluation as cultural heritage. Regarding the methodology for conservation and utilization, three traditional houses, which had been previously identified on the basis of features that indicated an early construction date, were selected as case studies. The potential methodologies for the seismic retrofitting of their rammed earth walls and the repair of their wooden members were studied. Furthermore, their potential use, compatible both with the owner’s demands and with the conservation of their value as cultural heritage, was examined during a discussion that involved DCHS staff, local architects, and owners. Regarding the evaluation of traditional houses as cultural heritage, comprehensive surveys were conducted in several settlements, and a potential method for the classification of traditional houses as well as a set of criteria for their designation as cultural properties was studied.
In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding referring to this project was signed at the Department of Culture, and a meeting was organized with the DCHS to discuss the results of this survey as well as the future prospects and needs of the Bhutanese counterparts.
In the future, we expect to continue cooperating with Bhutanese experts through on-site surveys and workshops to establish a methodology for the conservation and utilization of historic buildings suited to the Bhutanese reality.