Methods, Materials and Ethics—Contemporary Fills on Chinese Porcelains 方法、材料和伦理——对中国瓷器的现代填补技法

Penny Bendall, Fitzwilliam Museum 潘妮·班德尔, 剑桥大学费斯威廉博物

This presentation will concentrate on the bonding and filling of Chinese porcelains, using modern epoxy resins. With the immense improvement in these materials and their suitability for use with high fired porcelains, attitudes to conservation from different sectors of the art world are becoming increasingly uniform.

Post-war epoxy resins used for bonding were thick, yellow 2-part adhesives.  Break-lines and losses were then covered by dense fills, after which xylene based paints were applied over the fills with a spray gun to cover unsightly break-lines. The term ‘invisible repair’ became commonplace, and was requested and used frequently in the commercial sector. These deceptive methods which could hide much of the original surface were regarded as ‘good’ restoration due to the fact that no previous damage could be seen and, indeed, the restorer would have to be highly skilled to achieve an ‘invisible’ result. The ethical issues however were not taken into consideration.  Modern epoxy resins lend themselves to less deceptive restoration techniques for Chinese porcelain glazes, as they have a similar refractive index and work by capillary action to create a tight bond as both adhesives and fills.  Having achieved a good fill, there is little or no reason for additional retouching.

The benefits of modern epoxy resins will be demonstrated using slides showing two projects currently being undertaken at the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Royal Collection.  Eighteenth and nineteenth century porcelains will be compared to fourteenth and fifteenth century examples, since better results are often obtained with the later porcelains. Cleaning methods on these are more successful and the fills are neater and do not draw the eye, whereas the earlier porcelains have a thicker glaze creating problems with density and translucency.

Although the end results using modern epoxy resins are not perfect every time, they do not take away from the meaning of the object, maintain its decorative values and ensure that the original material can be seen. They are thus becoming more desirable to all client sectors of the art world.

Penny Bendall

Bendall is a Ceramic Conservator with extensive experience in both the commercial and museum world.  Since leaving West Dean College, her clients include The Royal Collection, Historic Royal Palaces, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Eskenazi Ltd, Sotheby’s and Christies.  She was granted the Royal Warrant in 2003, and has conducted numerous condition surveys for key institutions including.  Practical projects include The Blue and White Room at Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin, Queen Mary’s Drawing Room at Kensington Palace and exhibitions of Oriental and European ceramics at Burghley House, Stamford.  She undertook the restoration of the Kangxi vases damaged at The Fitzwilliam Museum in 2006.  She has lectured on Ethics and Conservation at Cambridge University, ICON at the V&A, The British Museum, Burghley House and The Fitzwilliam Museum.  She has taught conservation in Canada, USA and Singapore.  Current projects include conservation of a major collection of Islamic Ceramics at The Fitzwilliam and Oriental Porcelain belonging to the Royal Collection.  She is presently Director of QEST Enterprises, raising funds for The Queen Elizabeth’s Scholarship Trust (the charitable arm of the Royal Warrant Holders Association).  QEST gives scholarships to crafts people and conservators for training.  Penny has recently been invited to join the Plowden Medal Selection Board.