Recent Advances in Characterizing Asian Lacquer aims to disseminate new procedures developed by the GCI for acquiring detailed compositional information about lacquered objects, with the aim of improving the characterization, understanding and preservation of this material.

Lacquer has a central and valued place in the arts of Asia, with a history of production that stretches back as far as 5000 BCE in Asia and a more recent history of trade, collection and imitation in Europe, where lacquer arrived in the sixteenth century. While the traditions surrounding the production of lacquer are generally well appreciated, constituent materials and particular techniques of lacquer production in Asia vary enormously depending on geography, available raw materials and historical context, and European lacquered objects and imitations introduce another layer of complexity. Without thorough characterization, it can be difficult to identify different types of lacquers and to understand the implications for preservation.

In the related GCI project, Characterization of Asian and European Lacquers, a collaboration with the Getty Museum, development of a THM-Py-GC/MS procedure to study Asian and European lacquered objects led to surprising discoveries about the range of materials used by lacquer artists. In order to benefit the research and conservation of these materials, the GCI launched the Recent Advance in the Characterization of Asian Lacquers workshop series.

The workshops are a unique opportunity for scientists and conservators to work in close collaboration to explore new techniques for understanding lacquered objects in their own collections.

Objectives include:

• Demonstrate new analytical protocols and the information that can be gathered using these methods
• Provide participants with the tools necessary to use these methods, such as a marker compound database and custom data evaluation tools
• Highlight the benefits that collaboration between scientists and conservators can provide
• Identify pressing analytical and conservation issues in the field and priorities for future research

Page updated: October 2014