Department of Islamic Art: an early 18th century Damascene reception room

1000 Fifth Avenue, New York

phase 1: research and conservation treatment
June 2008 – june 2009

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Research and conservation of the of the wooden paneling of this Damascene interior

team member of the Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation

Within the Islamic Art collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the so-called Nur ad-Din Room, a magnificent reception chamber from a private house in Damascus.

The Museum’s galleries for Islamic artunderwent a complete redesign and renovation from 2003 – 2011. In connection with this project the room is moved to a more appropriate cultural and historical setting within the display of Ottoman art. This relocation presented an opportunity for the in-depth study and conservation of this Damascene interior.

Investigation into the materials and techniques of the Room was a primary focus of this study and conservation project. The original palette of the decorated surfaces was dominated by bright, saturated colors combined with reflective metal leaf to produce a variety of surface effects.

Unfortunately, these surfaces are now largely obscured by aged, darkened varnish layers, applied as maintenance varnishes in situ in Damascus. While the presence of the darkened varnish layers is the most immediately evident concern with the current state of the room, it was decided not to remove the varnishes at this time. The intermingling of the varnish layers with the original glazes, their common solubility, and the presence of large sections of earlier restoration painted to match the darkened condition were the deciding factors in this discussion. The time required to resolve these issues would have exceeded the allotted treatment time. The treatment approach therefore focused on mitigating the effects of insect damage, stabilizing flaking paint and tin leaf, and integrating visually disruptive earlier restoration materials. Read the publication