Palace temple paintings, murals regain colours
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Palace temple paintings, murals regain colours

February 17, 2022

Conservation team to bring centuries-old exquisite art back to its original glory

By A. Ganesh

A small tear in the canvas, a white patch in a crimson-red painting, a couple of lime splashes, damage caused by dust and fungal growth or cracks in the paint due to increased humidity. These are some of the factors that are constantly preying on art pieces and eating into their aesthetic value.

The Mysore Palace and its surrounding temples are a treasure house of paintings and efforts are on to protect these tangible pieces of history and culture. Be it century-old oil paintings, stained glass windows, frescoes, paintings of Gods and Goddesses, the exquisite artworks are in a deplorable condition.

The restoration works have been taken up by National Research Laboratory for Conservation (NRLC) of Cultural Property, Lucknow, which has entrusted the work to its Regional Conservation Laboratory in Mysuru. The Department of Archaeology and Museums has initiated the conservation work.

Conservation depends on the amount of deterioration and the time it will take to be corrected. Some of the aspects of conservation include recreation, stretching and un-stretching canvases, mending, lining, consolidation of flaking paint and retouching.

At present, the conservation and restoration works are going on at Varahaswamy and Ambujavalli Mahalakshmi temples in the Mysore Palace campus. The temples were originally built by the Hoysalas in Srirangapatna and the original idols were brought and installed at the Palace temples in 1811 by Chikkadevaraja Wadiyar.

Later during the reign of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, Dewan Poornaiah beautified the interiors of the temples with paintings of Ramayana and Mahabharata. However, these attractive oil paintings and murals have not been properly maintained and over the years, they have lost their glory.

Lack of maintenance

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Enough care is being taken to ensure that faulty restoration and repainting are not happening in the name of conservation. These precious collections are being restored by a specially trained conservation team where original paintings are retouched using scientific conservation techniques.

These rare paintings have been damaged during earlier restoration works of the temples. Apart from conserving the original materials, the team is also undertaking restoration of the works that require fillers, colours or coatings to reconstitute a missing component of the art — amalgamation of chemistry and arts.

“This process is tedious and an art form in itself. We are seeing variations of damage that fall into two categories — structural or aesthetic,” Biyas Ghosh, Senior Conservator, told Star of Mysore. Other members of the team are Senior Assistant Conservator Nithin Morya, Suresh Dixit and S.V. Sahana.

Natural colours faded now

“Many natural colours have been used on the walls of the temples, ceiling, pillars and wooden cupboards. Due to an absolute lack of maintenance, these colours have faded and also have been chipped off from the original pieces. We first clean the surroundings of the art work and then plaster the painting chips so that they don’t fall off. Later, the gaps are filled to recreate the art work,” Biyas Ghosh explained.

Some of the paintings are fungus-infested. The oil used in the paintings has flaked or peeled off and there are also lime deposits on the canvas. The art works would be documented first by recording their physical and chemical properties. Compatible materials are being used not to spoil the original.

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Many paintings had suffered damage because of the large number of visitors touching the paintings. Also, damage has been caused due to water leakage, high moisture content and extensive use of incense sticks, dhoop and also camphor inside the temples for rituals.

Labour-intensive process

“We have sought the original records of the temple paintings from the Mysore Palace Board and also the Palace Library. If we get hold of the records, it will help us maintain the originality in the conservation efforts. These paintings are more than 200 years old and efforts are on to carefully conserve them,” Biyas Ghosh said.

Typically it takes two to three weeks to restore a painting. However, this timing can vary depending on an art piece’s condition, the extent of damage and the painting’s size. A large painting with extensive damage could take more time. The entire process is labour-intensive and needs deft hands, Ghosh added.

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Palace temple paintings, murals regain colours”

  1. Ramesh Kumar says:

    What about fake guides who profess to be authentic authorized guides who haggle abuse the tourists? All these roam around the Palace surroundings. These are highly promoted by shopkeepers who have very high political clouts. These rule the roost in Mysore as vagabonds and itinerant guides. Evenings these are fully drunk. Next day morning you will find them fresh and relaxed with blotched up red eyes.


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