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bouddha en traitement

Project BRAIN-be
BRAIN-be (Belgian Research Action through Interdisciplinary Networks) is the first phase (2012-2017) of a recurrent framework programme which allows, through the funding of research projects based on scientific excellence and European and international anchorage, to meet the needs for scientific knowledge of the Belgian  federal departments and to support the scientific potential of the Federal Scientific Institutions.


Asian lacquer, the cured sap of some endemic trees growing in Southeast Asia, Japan and China, is a widespread organic coating material for e.g. the production of utilitarian items, objects and architecture. Its intrinsic qualities in terms of durability, hardness and gloss is unique and is hence the fundament of its long-lasting preservation. Since the 16th century Asian lacquer was highly appreciated in Europe and became an exotic luxury item. A large part of surviving objects still remain in some European museum collections.

This research proposal focuses on the scientific study of the interactions of cleaning solvents with the lacquer surface in order to formulate “best practices” for cleaning Asian lacquers. The emphasis is put upon possible changes in chemical as well as physical aspects of the lacquer through solvent and aqueous cleaning. There will be special attention to the lacquer collection of the Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH), evaluating the current condition of the lacquerware and proposing “best practises” for safe cleaning and hence long-term preservation. To elucidate the solvent/lacquer interactions chemical analyses will be carried out at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK/IRPA) and Ghent University (UGent), applying complimentary chromatographic techniques.