Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties Center for Conservation Science
Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

A presentation at the annual meeting of the Art Libraries Society of North America

Photo taken mid-presentation
The last slide of the presentation

 The effects of the novel coronavirus infection have persisted for a long time and this has meant that meetings and other events, which had previously been held with a large number of stakeholders, are now often held online. The annual meeting of the Art Libraries Society of North America was also held online on May 13, 2021, in collaboration with the Getty Research Institute, and was titled “Building Bridges: Working Together to Disseminate Japanese Art Literature.” This was the first time the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo (TOBUNKEN) gave a presentation at this conference. In 2016, we signed an agreement with the Getty Research Institute in the United States regarding collaborative research. In addition to the Meiji Art Journal “Mizue,” we digitized books in our library collection, including art magazines from the Meiji period, art exhibition catalogues from the Meiji period up to the early Showa period, and woodblock print books from the Edo period. We also provided information to the Getty Research Portal, a virtual library operated by the Getty Research Institute, and we are working to publish more information online. In the presentation, we introduced the history and results of our collaborative research projects so far, and specifically presented new perspectives that could be obtained by cross-searching the materials in the possession of each country. As global travel and excursions are restricted, virtual libraries where valuable research materials are freely available online are becoming increasingly important. We will continue to cooperate with research institutes in Japan and overseas to promote the dissemination of useful information for research on cultural properties.

Presentation on the Shuten-dōji handscrolls: The 2nd Seminar of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information System

Photo taken mid-presentation
The sixth volume of the “Shuten-dōji handscrolls” by SUMIYOSHI Hiroyuki (owned by GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig )

The Shuten-dōji picture scrolls depict an ogre named Shuten-dōji who once lived on Mt. Ōe or Mt. Ibuki and engaged in the wicked acts of capturing women and plundering treasures in the capital, being conquered by samurai such as Minamoto-no- Raikō. The character of Shuten-dōji is a popular theme and there are many works depicting him that remain in existence today. One famous work, a three-scroll piece by KANŌ Motonobu, which is owned by the Suntory Museum of Art, is well known. At this seminar, a presentation titled “Regarding the First Appearance of SUMIYOSHI Hiroyuki’s ‘Shuten-dōji handscrolls’ (owned by the GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig)” was given. This work consists of six volumes, and its existence was completely unknown after Heinrich Botho Scheube, a foreign physician hired by the Meiji Government, brought it to Germany in 1882. The presenter was able to inspect the pieces in this work at Leipzig in 2019, and in this presentation, she noted that the scrolls may have been painted by SUMIYOSHI Hiroyuki in 1786 as a trousseau when Tanehime (1765-94, her biological father was TOKUGAWA Munetake, the first head of the Tayasu branch of the Tokugawa clan and her biological brother was MATSUDAIRA Sadanobu) who was an adopted daughter of TOKUGAWA Ieharu, the tenth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, married TOKUGAWA Harutomi (1771-1853), the tenth head of the Kishū-Tokugawa family. The first half of this work was added to the content of KANŌ Motonobu’s three-volume work, and it can be said to be an important example of a body of work when moving forward with future research into Shuten-dōji handscrolls. In the future, we will continue to engage in research and utilize this work as a research material.

An Examination of Armor Using X-ray Radiography and X-ray Fluorescence Analysis

Survey of Armor by X-ray Fluorescence Analysis

 At the request of the Kariya city Museum of History, INUZUKA Masahide of the Center for Conservation Science, conducted an analytical survey of a suit of armor. As part of these materials, the helmet became a designated cultural property of Kariya City in 1984. The location of items other than the helmet, such as the torso of the armor, only came to light a few years ago. The degree of damage to these other parts of the suit armor is much more severe than to the helmet, but they were additionally designated as cultural heritage by Kariya city in 2019 and deposited at the Museum.
 A project to preserve and restore these materials will be implemented in the future. To collect basic data for this purpose, a structural survey using X-ray radiography and a pigment analysis using X-ray fluorescence analysis were conducted at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties on May 31, 2021.
 Images taken with X-ray radiography provided information on the structure of the helmet and torso, the number of components that comprise the armor, the position and number of studs, and other information. We also conducted an X-ray fluorescence analysis of the pale orange-colored portion on the surface of the helmet, leveraging a device that specializes in analyzing cultural properties, which are large in size and have a three-dimensional structure, with high sensitivity, as shown in the photograph. The results of these surveys will be used as reference materials for future restoration work.

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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