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<p>The Mazarin Chest, Japan, about 1640. Museum no. 412-1882</p> <p>マザラン・チェスト、日本製、1640年頃、館蔵番号 412-1882</p>

The Mazarin Chest, Japan, about 1640. Museum no. 412-1882

マザラン・チェスト、日本製、1640年頃、館蔵番号 412-1882

The Mazarin Chest Project has been a major collaborative undertaking involving conservators, curators and scientists from the UK, Japan, Germany and Poland. Its focus has been the V&A's Mazarin Chest, an exquisitely decorated example of Japanese export lacquer made to the very highest of standards in Kyoto in the late 1630s or early 1640s.


The project has had two main aims. The first has been the development of an integrated approach to the conservation of urushi (lacquer) objects that respects both western conservation ethics, in which concern with the retreatability of objects is paramount, and Japanese conservation values, which seek to preserve the cultural continuity of objects by employing, as far as possible, materials and techniques similar to those used at the time of manufacture. The second was the application of this approach to the stabilisation of the Mazarin Chest, which, over the centuries, had been subjected to a variety of western restorations, and whose condition had deteriorated as a result of exposure to light and cyclical changes in temperature and relative humidity.


The choice of treatments used during the conservation of the Mazarin Chest between 2004 and 2008 was informed by scientific research carried out at the V&A, the Institute of Catalysis and Surface Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences, and through partnerships with leading British and European universities. At the same time art historical research was conducted in order to further understanding of the circumstances of the Mazarin Chest's production and its subsequent history in Europe.


Planning and fund-raising were carried out over several years prior to the official launch of the project in 2004. On completion of the conservation of the Mazarin Chest in 2008, it travelled to the Kyoto National Museum, the Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, with total visitor numbers of 209,977. In October 2009, the chest was returned to the V&A’s Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art to coincide with the staging of the international conference, Crossing Borders: The Conservation, Science and Material Culture of East Asian Lacquer, 30-31 October 2009 (dual- language English and Japanese conference proceedings, East Asian Lacquer: Material Culture, Science and Conservation, Archetype Publications, 2011). A gallery and web-based interactive to help disseminate the achievements of the project is also under construction.


The Mazarin Chest Project has been funded by the Getty Foundation, the Toshiba International Foundation (TIFO) and the V&A. The V&A is also grateful to the Japan Foundation and the Tobunken (Independent Administrative Institution, National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo). The latter played an invaluable role in advising on the parameters of the project, in providing training for V&A staff, and in sharing conservation and scientific research findings during the planning stages of the project.


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