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Painted Splendor

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Painted Splendor

The Context and Conservation of a Chinese Reception Hall in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Adriana Proser, Sally Malenka, and Beth A. Price with a Foreword by Klaas Ruitenbeek
2004
48 pages
40 color reproductions; 7 black-and-white reproductions

ISBN 0-87633-177-0

The Chinese reception hall at the Philadelphia Museum of Art stands without peer in any Western museum, offering visitors a rare glimpse of the monumental building style and magnificent decorative painting associated with traditional palace architecture in China.

Built in Beijing during the final years of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) as part of the residential complex of a high-ranking eunuch in the service of the emperor, the hall passed through various noble owners during the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) and underwent three cycles of decorative painting before falling into disrepair in the early twentieth century. Acquired by the Museum in 1929, the massive structure was shipped to Philadelphia and reassembled by WPA workers, eventually becoming a centerpiece of the Museum’s Asian wing when it opened to the public in 1940.

In 1995–96, the reception hall’s painted decoration—which covers more than 4,200 square feet and includes dragons, birds, flowers, fruits, and other motifs associated with good fortune and prosperity in Chinese culture—was the subject of a comprehensive conservation treatment to preserve areas of damaged paint from further deterioration. During the research associated with the treatment, Museum conservator Sally Malenka, scientist Beth A. Price, and assistant curator Adriana Proser uncovered fascinating new information about the hall’s history and previous decorative cycles. Their findings are presented here, making this book essential reading for anyone interested in the history and preservation of Chinese architecture.

Adriana Proser is Assistant Curator, East Asian Art, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Sally Malenka is Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Beth A. Price is Senior Scientist, Scientific Research and Analysis, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

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