G. Žičkuvienė, J. Bagdzevičienė, L. Kruopaitė
Traces of Ancient Egyptian Culture in Lithuania: Investigations into and Conservation of the Sarcophagus of the Singer of God Amon
The unique exhibit of the National Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis Art Museum – the sarcophagus of the singer of God Amon (Ancient Egypt, Thebes, 11th–9th century BC; Ficus sycomorus wood, polychromy; 27 x 192 x 50 cm) was conserved at the Lithuanian Art Museum Pranas Gudynas Restoration Centre. First of all, by combining several methods of analysis materials used for polychromy were determined, the ground and pigments were identified and the structure of painting layers was described. On the basis of the results of a stratigraphic analysis and optical microscopy of the samples the sequence of painting layers and the colour of pigments, as well as their distribution in the layers, were defined. Having carried out a microchemical qualitative analysis, FTIR and XRD analyses it was established that the ground consisted of two layers: gypsum, chalk, clay, charcoal and filaments of vegetable fibre were found in the lower layer of the ground; the upper layer of the ground contained gypsum, chalk, clay and sand. Paint of six colours – white, yellow, red, blue, green and black – was used for polychromy of the sarcophagus. Pure colours were used and the principle of multilayered painting was applied. Pigments of Egyptian blue, huntite, the yellow and red ochres, green earth and charcoal were identified. Having carried out FTIR analysis it was established that the binding agent of both layers of the ground and paint was gum arabic.
When devising the conservation method the conception of minimum intervention was followed, that is, attempts were made to have the least effect on the materials of the sarcophagus and not to change the aesthetic picture of polychromy. Prior to conservation the effect of the solutions of different consolidants on authentic materials of the sarcophagus was assessed by carrying out tests. Solution of hydroxypropylcellulose Klucel GF in the mixture of isopropanol, white spirit and ethyl alcohol was chosen to consolidate polychromy of the sarcophagus. The conserved sarcophagus was mounted and prepared for display.