Instrumental Analysis of the Plaster, Pigment and Preservative Coatings in Sri Lanka – Janani Namal Seneviratne

Introduction

This book is entitled as “Instrumental Analysis of the Plaster, Pigment and Preservative Coatings in Sri Lanka” (Techniques of Paintings, Conservation History and Scientific Analysis of the mural paintings in Sigiriya, Tiwanka Image House, Dambulla and Mirissa Samudragiri Viharaya). I have undertaken a painstaking effort in retrieving available information and analytical observations of temples and data procured from numerous materials written on the subject. I have attempted to site information which is not easily available and used techniques such as participant observation and living-in-research in the composition of my work.

A few scientific studies have been conducted on Sri Lankan wall paintings by scientists in the archaeology field from 1960 to date. In their studies, they had focused on materials and techniques used by ancient artists mentioned in “Ancient Shilper text”. This research will develop analytical work in the Mural Conservation Unit and will aid in protecting and documenting mural paintings of Sri Lanka and subsequently provide historical and archaeological value for future generations.

Ancient mural painting samples obtained from the archaeological world heritage sites such as Sigiriya, Dambulla, Tiwanka Image House and Samudragiri Temple in Sri Lanka have been utilized for laboratory analysis purposes. Through this research I was able to analyze the elements and composition of the plasters, pigments, binding media and resin which traditional painters had used by applying instrumental analysis techniques such as Optical Microscopy, X-ray diffraction, X-ray Fluorescence, SEM and EDS, FT-IR and GCMS.

The initial objective was to make use of the practical knowledge obtained from the experts in NRICH and their guidelines on scientific instrumental analysis in above mentioned techniques for further treatment of Sri Lankan mural painting conservation. It is very important to mention that there are hundreds of mural painting sites scattered all over the island with variations of historical, aesthetic and religious attributes. The painting conservation section of the Department of Archaeology, assiduously protect these murals against identified problems to preserve them for the future.

Department of Archaeology the apex governing body of the country, takes responsibility to conserve mural paintings, alongside other agencies that also contribute to research work, investigations etc. The main laboratory in the Department of Archaeology is divided into two sections as artifact conservation unit and painting conservation research unit. These two sections carry out artifact conservation and painting conservation projects annually.

This research aims to identify the technical knowhow of the ancient painters who had been involved in the creation of wall paintings which belonged to the ancient styles, scattered in locations all over Sri Lanka. For this purpose the data is obtained using modern scientific equipment used to analyze the binding and making of colours in paintings. At present, there are various advanced methods for such analysis in this field. It is necessary that the researcher engaged in this process should understand the historical chronology of the development composition of the architectural format, material composition of the paintings, sculptures and plaster, to understand the extent of deterioration. Herein, the value of this scientific study on the pigments, plaster and binding media is of immense value to step on to the path.

A scientific analysis by using modern techniques enables a researcher to estimate more precisely the material used. Such a research would enable a conservator to use the appropriate chemicals and materials for conservation of wall paintings to minimize the defacing or damage and to also make such paintings to last longer to mitigate the decaying process.

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Description

This book is entitled as “Instrumental Analysis of the Plaster, Pigment and Preservative Coatings in Sri Lanka” (Techniques of Paintings, Conservation History and Scientific Analysis of the mural paintings in Sigiriya, Tiwanka Image House, Dambulla and Mirissa Samudragiri Viharaya). I have undertaken a painstaking effort in retrieving available information and analytical observations of temples and data procured from numerous materials written on the subject. I have attempted to site information which is not easily available and used techniques such as participant observation and living-in-research in the composition of my work.

A few scientific studies have been conducted on Sri Lankan wall paintings by scientists in the archaeology field from 1960 to date. In their studies, they had focused on materials and techniques used by ancient artists mentioned in “Ancient Shilper text”. This research will develop analytical work in the Mural Conservation Unit and will aid in protecting and documenting mural paintings of Sri Lanka and subsequently provide historical and archaeological value for future generations.

Ancient mural painting samples obtained from the archaeological world heritage sites such as Sigiriya, Dambulla, Tiwanka Image House and Samudragiri Temple in Sri Lanka have been utilized for laboratory analysis purposes. Through this research I was able to analyze the elements and composition of the plasters, pigments, binding media and resin which traditional painters had used by applying instrumental analysis techniques such as Optical Microscopy, X-ray diffraction, X-ray Fluorescence, SEM and EDS, FT-IR and GCMS.

The initial objective was to make use of the practical knowledge obtained from the experts in NRICH and their guidelines on scientific instrumental analysis in above mentioned techniques for further treatment of Sri Lankan mural painting conservation. It is very important to mention that there are hundreds of mural painting sites scattered all over the island with variations of historical, aesthetic and religious attributes. The painting conservation section of the Department of Archaeology, assiduously protect these murals against identified problems to preserve them for the future.

Department of Archaeology the apex governing body of the country, takes responsibility to conserve mural paintings, alongside other agencies that also contribute to research work, investigations etc. The main laboratory in the Department of Archaeology is divided into two sections as artifact conservation unit and painting conservation research unit. These two sections carry out artifact conservation and painting conservation projects annually.

This research aims to identify the technical knowhow of the ancient painters who had been involved in the creation of wall paintings which belonged to the ancient styles, scattered in locations all over Sri Lanka. For this purpose the data is obtained using modern scientific equipment used to analyze the binding and making of colours in paintings. At present, there are various advanced methods for such analysis in this field. It is necessary that the researcher engaged in this process should understand the historical chronology of the development composition of the architectural format, material composition of the paintings, sculptures and plaster, to understand the extent of deterioration. Herein, the value of this scientific study on the pigments, plaster and binding media is of immense value to step on to the path.

A scientific analysis by using modern techniques enables a researcher to estimate more precisely the material used. Such a research would enable a conservator to use the appropriate chemicals and materials for conservation of wall paintings to minimize the defacing or damage and to also make such paintings to last longer to mitigate the decaying process.

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