In 2004, the Museum acquired a spectacular Tibetan altar adorned with intricately carved niches and lively paintings that highlight domestic themes. However, this probably turn-of-the-century altar arrived at the Museum covered by a thick layer of soot, a result of countless burnt offerings, and disassembled into seventy-six pieces.
In order to preserve and display the altar, an extensive conservation project was required. Its goals were to reveal the brilliant colors and artistry beneath the grime, reconstruct the altar, create a stable and non-intrusive structural support, and explore the age of the piece as well as the artisans’ materials and techniques. This project is part of an ongoing, pioneering scientific study of Tibetan furniture at the Museum. The conservation treatment and technical study, as well as the Tibetan-Buddhist cultural context of the altar, is explored in the exhibition Conserving a Tibetan Altar.
Funds to conserve the altar were generously provided by the Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.