Characterization of Asian and European Lacquers
 
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Eighteenth-century French furniture from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum decorated with Asian and European lacquered panels

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Details of a commode, attributed to Joseph Baumhauer (JPGM 55.DA.2), showing the lacquered panels with the decorative gilded mounts removed

Historical map of Asia
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Historical map of regions in Asia where lacquer-producing trees grow

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Harvesting raw urushi sap from cuts in the tree bark. Photo: Arlen Heginbotham, JPGM

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Producing Kurome lacquer by heating and stirring raw urushi tree sap. Photo: Arlen Heginbotham, JPGM

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Catechol molecules considered urushi marker compounds in Py-GC/MS test results of lacquers.

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Imaging of objects with ultraviolet light and X-rays reveals details of the lacquer layers. This information helps conservators select the best locations to take samples. Photo: Arlen Heginbotham, JPGM

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A corner cupboard by Bernard van Risenburgh II ( JPGM 72.DA.44)

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Multiple layers are visible in this cross section, viewed under ultraviolet light, of a lacquered area from the Bernard van Risenburgh corner cupboard (JPGM 72.DA.44). Photo: Arlen Heginbotham, JPGM

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Multiple layers are visible in the cross section, viewed under ultraviolet light, of a lacquered area from the BVRB corner cupboard, J. Paul Getty Museum accession number 72.DA.44

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Arlen Heginbotham, JPGM Assistant Conservator of Decorative Arts, uses ultraviolet light to aid in removing samples of individual layers on lacquered furniture.

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Michael Schilling, GCI Senior Scientist, examining a sample of lacquer under a stereomicroscope. Photo: Dusan Stulik, GCI

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Placing lacquer into a pyrolyzer sample cup. Photo: Michael Schilling, GCI

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Loading a sample cup into the pyrolyzer. Photo: Dusan Stulik, GCI

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Pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry instrument in the GCI Science laboratories. Photo: Michael Schilling, GCI

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TMAH-Py-GC/MS test results for Asian (bottom) and European (top) lacquers appear quite different.

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TMAH-Py-GC/MS results for lacquer sample from the Baumhauer commode (JPGM 55.DA.2), show thitsi marker compounds present in several layers.

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Marker compounds present in TMAH-Py-GC/MS test results differentiate the three types of Anacard lacquer

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Herant Khanjian, GCI Assistant Scientist, using the Fourier-transform infrared microscope in the GCI Science laboratories. Photo: Michael Schilling, GCI

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Identification of urushi in lacquer from the Bernard van Risenburgh red commode, (JPGM 72.DA.46) using FTIR analysis

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As these samples from the GCI Reference Collection show, persimmon juice added to roiro urushi imparts gloss to the dry lacquer film. Photo: Arlen Heginbotham, JPGM

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A selection of tree resin specimens generously donated to the GCI Reference Collection. Photo: Arlen Heginbotham, JPGM

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Wood oil was discovered in Japanese export lacquer using TMAH-Py-GC/MS. Photo: Arlen Heginbotham, JPGM