Pearl O'Sullivan

Pearl O'Sullivan

The 'Sword of Damocles' conservation treatment project.

I am in the final year of a post-graduate diploma in the conservation of easel paintings at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. I am currently carrying out research into the painting materials and techniques the Irish Modernist painter Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957).

In 2012, I was the fortunate recipient of a Nehru India Travel Award which allowed me to take part in the exciting conservation project of restoring Antoine Dubost's 'Sword of Damolces' at the CSVMS Museum, Mumbai. The project involved assisting in the second stage the Dubost project which has been an on-going collaboration between the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and the CSMVS in Mumbai since July 2011. This second stage focused on the structural conservation of the painting - a nineteenth century oil on canvas painted by the French academic painter Antoine Dubost in 1804. The treatment included removal of a previous lining, repair and consolidation of the original canvas and the re-lining of the painting using conservation grade materials and techniques.

During the four weeks I spent in Mumbai, I carried out removal of old adhesive, testing and preparation of new lining materials and assisting in the lining process with a specialist liner from London. This travel award to Mumbai allowed me to experience material and environmental challenges that I would not have been exposed to in the United Kingdom. I engaged with Indian approaches to conservation at the CSMVS in Mumbai and during a tour and visit to INTACH Centre for Art Conservation in New Delhi. I saw and learned about painting and guilding techniques that I would not have seen outside of India, including Tibetan Thangka painting. In my work since returning from Mumbai, I have been able to adopt the innovative resourceful and inspiring approach to problem solving in the structural treatment of canvas paintings, which I observed in India.

The final stages of the ‘Sword of Damocles’ painting conservation treatment are now underway with restoration of the paint layers currently being carried out. To-date, the progress of the project has been reported on in The Courtauld News quarterly gallery publication and in the ‘Picture Restorer’ a biannual industry journal for the painting conservation and restoration community in the United Kingdom.