After successfully restoring 242 fungal-infested paintings of the Russian-born artist Svetoslav Roerich, the Regional Conservation Laboratory (RCL), Mysore, has taken up conservation of invaluable photographs and paintings at the historic Mysore Palace.
On request from the Mysore Palace Board authorities, the RCL has initiated restoration work on about 13 coloured photographs and oil paintings, comprising portraits of the royal family. The art works almost a century old, are in a deplorable condition. While the paper of the photographs is torn and has developed pores, the oil used in the paintings has flaked or peeled off the paper. There are also lime deposits on the canvas.
On Tuesday, the RCL brought in three works -- portraits of Chamaraja Wadiyar and King Edward III and a family photo of the Wadiyar family, to its laboratory to start the restoration. Of the 13 works, two are Ravi Varma paintings, two oil paintings are by foreign artists. The remaining are painted photographs.
Dr B V Kharbade, scientist and director of RCL, said the coloured photographs, especially, are one of a kind, not only for their large sizes but also for the technique adopted almost hundred years ago. He said the photography technique used was unique to the Mysore region during those days. He said the large-sized papers (almost 3.5 feet in height) for the photographs may have been imported from a foreign country like the UK, while the photos were blown up and pieced together in strips.
“This is actually the real art of Mysore, and these photography experts could only be found in the durbar of the Mysore Palace,” he said. The restoration, being taken up at a cost of Rs eight lakh, is expected to take about six months. Kharbade said the art works would be documented first by recording their physical and chemical properties.
The photographs and paintings will then be put through diagnostic analysis to determine a treatment method. Once the art works are effectively treated, they will be framed and put back in the Palace. This is the second time the RCL has taken up restoration of the paintings at the Palace. Between 2006 and 2008, it restored 30 works including the Dasara procession paintings.
Authorities at the Mysore Palace said the paintings had suffered damage because of the “large number of visitors” during Dasara. They said that despite taking precautions, there were instances of children or even adults touching the paintings. They said the paintings had not been encased in glass frames to avoid reflection.
Ashwini Y S, Bangalore, July 18, 2012, DHNS