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tomb-painting

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    EA37983

  • Description

    Fragment of a polychrome tomb-painting representing the pool in Nebamun's estate garden: date-palms, sycomores and mandrakes hedge the pool which teems with fish and fowl; the goddess of the sycomore, surrounded by her produce, is shown in the top right-hand corner.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1350BC (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 64 centimetres (max)
    • Width: 73 centimetres (painting only)
  • Curator's comments

    Published:
    PM I Part 2, p. 817;
    N. Strudwick, Masterpieces of Ancient Egypt, London 2006, p. 176.
    Full publication: R. Parkinson, The Painted Tomb-Chapel of Nebamun: Masterpieces of Ancient Egyptian Art in the British Museum (London: British Museum Press 2008).
    A. Middleton and K. Uprichard (ed.), The Nebamun Wall paintings: Conservation, Scientific Analysis and Display at the British Museum (London: Archetype 2008).

    More 

  • Bibliography

    • Strudwick 2006 p.176 bibliographic details
  • Location

    G61/2F

  • Condition

    good (incomplete)

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    3 March 2006

    Reason for treatment

    Permanent Exhibition

    Treatment proposal

    Conserve and remount

    Condition

    I. Condition of Paint Layer (see graphic doc.):

    * The paint layer was generally covered by surface dirt, including dust, fibres and particulates. Mud traces (related to the presence of wasps' nests) were found in various areas, sometimes in association with a brown coating. Dark spots were noticed in the top E corner, and bottom W and E corners. A shiny clear coating (identified as animal, possibly fish glue) was applied selectively on specific colours/patterns, while white crystals (identified as 1) magnesium chloride, 2) a clay material with presence of gypsum) were noticed (through binocular microscope) along the top western half. A thin coating, slightly darkened, covers the 3 middle trees, on the W side. Finally, paint emulsion overlapped the edge of the fragment, in a few areas.

    The edge of the fragment appears darkened all around (a few cm within) by staining (probably due to humic matter from the mud plaster, brought by water released by the mount's plaster of Paris' setting).

    * Most of the deterioration pattern appeared concentrated within the stained edge (although occurred elsewhere): both flaking and (mainly) microflaking, and decohesion/powdering. Salt pustules (crystallised below paint layer) were found in various areas of the surrounding edge.

    Preferential pigment loss (probably due to technique of application and/or nature of the pigment) was observed for the background white layer, areas of blacks, Egyptian blue and green fritt (the 2 latter often applied as thick impasto, and fallen off).

    Some areas showed an abrasion pattern, probably related to the removal of wasps' nests (mud traces found).

    A few scratches caused some loss of paint, sometimes through to the plaster too.

    II. Condition of Plaster Layer (see graphic doc.):

    * Gypsum intonaco:

    A network of cracks connected with thin cracks runs through the whole surface. Losses are found along the edges, while scratches, iconoclast losses and insect holes can be noticed in various areas.

    Again, most of the deterioration patterns are to be found in the stained surrounding edge (although occurred elsewhere): decohesion, crumbliness, loose fragments (edges mostly), delamination from the mud plaster underneath (strong delamination on the edge, difformed along N side; light delamination connected with cracks network, towards the center of the fragment).

    * Mud plaster (arriccio):

    Surface uncovered from the mount was found powdery, crumbly, with sometimes detached fragments (damage related to the plaster of Paris mount); the mud plaster is otherwise sound.

    Treatment details

    The object was thoroughly examined under a microscope. Observations on ancient painterly techniques, past treatments and present treatments were recorded individually as technical information record on hard copy (see envelope for detailed information). A photoshop file detailing the objects condition, observations on painterly technique, past and most current treatment is also available on memory stick.

    All treatments were carried out through the binocular microscope.

    I. Cleaning:

    * Surface dirt micro-vacuumed using vacuum tweezers (1mm thick end).

    * Dark spots removed/reduced with deionized water:acetone 1:1 on cotton-wool swabs, through a Japanese tissue intervention layer.

    * Shiny clear coating reduced by brushing with deionized water:acetone 2:1.

    * White crystals removed by dissolving/swelling with deionized water (with 00 sable brush), then peeled off.

    * Brown coating (associated with mud traces): hot deionized water applied with 00 sable brush, then peeled off after swelling (sometimes fixing was required prior to this). Mostly a thin layer was left, as total removal was found disruptive.

    * Paint emulsion: cotton-wool swabs with acetone dabbed on the surface (sometimes through Japanese tissue).

    * Tests to remove mud traces with scalpel showed to leave an unstable cleaned area; these were therefore left uncleaned - moreover, were not visually too disruptive nor causing damage.

    * The stained edge was left as it was: previous conservation campaigns showed it could not be easily reduced without causing damage.

    * Slightly darkened thin coating covering 3 middle trees on W side: tests showed deionised water 2 : 1 acetone (applied with 00 sable brush) had satisfactory results, but required repetition of application. A poultice could be applied to reduce the mechanical action, however the nature of the substrate does not recommend a prolonged contact with water: the coating was left, as no deterioration was associated with its presence.

    II. Stabilisation

    II.1) Paint layer:

    * Decohesion in frit pigments areas: 2% Paraloid B72 in IMS:acetone 1:1 (applied with 00 sable brush).

    * Decohesion in other colours: !% Paraloid B72 in IMS:acetone 1:1 (applied with 00 sable brush).

    * Salt pustules crystallised below surface: 2% Paraloid B72 in IMS:acetone 1:1, after pre-wetting with IMS (applied with 00 sable brush).

    * Flakes/microflakes: readhered using 5% Primal AC33 in deionised water, after pre-wetting with IMS (applied with 00 sable brush; clearance using acetone). Relaying using various methodologies: 1) thick brittle flakes - hot spatula (30-40C) through thin melinex; 2) thin flakes in white background - AC33 left to dry slightly then swabbed with IMS through Japanese tissue; 3) thick flakes in areas painted with frit pigment - leave AC33 to dry slightly then swab with deionised water 2:1 acetone through Japanese tissue; 4) yellow areas with shiny coating - wait AC33 to dry slightly then press gently with 00 sable brush or swab with deionised water 2:1 IMS through Japanese tissue; 5) sensitive areas with fragile surface - wait AC33 to dry slightly then press lightly with dry pad (cotton-wool swab twisted in layer of Japanese tissue) through Japanese tissue (thus preventing to mark surface with tissue imprint).

    II.2) Plaster layer:

    * Light powdering in intonaco: 2% Paraloid B72 in IMS:acetone 1:1 (applied with 00 sable brush).

    * Crumbly intonaco: 5% Paraloid B72 in IMS:acetone 1:1, after pre-wetting with IMS (applied with 00 sable brush).

    * Loose fragments of painted plaster: 1) readhered using 10% Primal AC33 in water, after pre-wetting with IMS (applied with 00 sable brush); 2) at edges wher very unbalanced - 5% Paraloid B72 in IMS:acetone 1:1, after pre-wetting with IMS (applied with 00 sable brush; clearance using acetone).

    * Decohesion in mud plaster: 5-10 % Primal AC33 in water, after pre-wetting with IMS (applied with glass pipettes). Tested beforehand: 1) 2-5% Paraloid B72 in IMS:acetone 1:1 - strong darkening and not very effective; 2) 2.5-5% PVB in IMS - required repetition, thus causing darkening, and not satisfactory consolidation; 3) Primal - consolidation very effective after 1 application and no visual change.

    * Loose fragments of mud plaster: readhered using 10% Primal AC33 in water, after pre-wetting with IMS (applied with glass pipettes).

    III. Mount removal:

    * To prevent the accumulation of plaster dust during the plaster of Paris removal, the painted surface was covered over with a loose layer of Japanese tissue.

    * The process included alternately a Dremmel, using the "bird" bit (found to cause the least vibrations), a scalpel, chisel and hammer. Continuous vacuum clearance was essential during this process.

    * The first step was to drill a thin channel at about 1,5-2cm from the edge of the painted surface, to prevent the drilling vibrations to be carried through by the hard emulsion paint covering the plaster of Paris.

    Along the paint layer edge, both Dremmel and scalpel (in combination with wetting the plaster to soften it) were used.Once the surface of the arriccio was found, the plaster of Paris was gradually removed in layers to uncover it. A thin layer of plaster was temporarily left to protect the mud plaster from the dust.

    Once the width the width was revealed, a channel was dug up vertically (depth ca 6cm); the wooden case was then dismantled and the thick plaster of Paris edge was removed (combination of drill with small saw-disk, chisel and hammer - to lightly flick out pieces).

    * The mount forms a concave dome sitting on 4 corners: a big square of plastic foam was introduced below tosupport the centre, while inner corner supports were added (polyester resin). The plaster removal was then continued vertically: to reduce the amount of vibrations and impact on the fragment, quadrillated channels were drilled, then big chunks flicked out using a chisel. The plaster was then removed by layers using a drill, as described above.

    * Newspaper fragments were extracted from the mount using alternately the Dremmel and scalpel.

    About these records 

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1821

  • Department

    Ancient Egypt & Sudan

  • BM/Big number

    EA37983

  • Registration number

    .37983

  • Additional IDs

    • ES.177

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Object reference number: YCA67996

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