Conservation in Action: Preserving Hanabusa Itchō’s rare masterpiece, Death of Buddha (1713)
Conservation in Action: Preserving Nirvana
August 20, 2016 – January 16, 2017
Museum of Fine Arts Boston Asian Painting Gallery (Gallery 178
For the next six months, MFA visitors can watch and interact with conservators as the Museum’s Asian Conservation Studio in partnership with colleagues from the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art publicly restores Hanabusa Itchō’s rare masterpiece, Death of Buddha (1713)—one of the most important Buddhist paintings of its time.
Hanabusa Itchō (1652–1724), best known for his satiric scenes of everyday life, enlivened the traditional scene depicting Buddha’s death through his masterful handling of the individual figures and grieving members of the animal kingdom. The painting was famous in its own time, attracting travelers to the Zen temple where it was displayed annually for more than 150 years.
The conservation treatment is an elaborate process that involves completely dismantling and reassembling the scroll. The new mounting uses a custom woven reproduction of the original mounting silk made for the MFA by traditional weavers in Kyoto. The scroll painting also has elaborate gilt metal fittings carved with mythical lions, created and signed in the 18th century by the famed metalworker and close friend of the artist, Yokoya Sōmin. Follow the progress at #mfaConservation or for an in-depth look at this conservation project, see Conservation in Action.
On October 19, MFA conservators and their Freer/Sackler colleagues rejoin Hanabusa Itcho’s oversized painting back into its hanging scroll form. When finished the scroll will be 16 feet tall!
Above: Hanabusa Itchō, Death of Buddha, 1713. Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on paper. Fenollosa-Weld Collection.