A Delicate Reconstruction

October 21, 2009

Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India’s Comics features more than contemporary comic books. Also on view in the galleries are ten double-sided folios from a narrative series illustrating the Mahabharata, one of India’s great epics. These paintings were used by traveling storytellers to depict Hindu myths as they told their stories in song and verse. The 1850s pieces on display in this exhibition are scenes from the story of Babhruvahana, a character in the Mahabharata.

In order for these double-sided opaque watercolor cards to be displayed in their best light, old paper attachments were removed mechanically, tears were repaired, and losses were filled to unify their supports and imagery. The fills were in-painted with watercolors to recreate the imagery where possible. Many of the areas where media loss had occurred due to tears, creases, or abrasion were not reconstructed, as the curators felt that improving them would take away the history (or patina, if you will) of the original use of these cards.


Unidentified Scene from the Story of Babhruvahana, folio from a Mahabharata, c. 1850, gift of Paul F. Walter.


After treatment.


Marriage of Vrishaketu and the Daughter of King Yavanatha, c. 1850, gift of Paul F. Walter.


After treatment.


Unidentified Scene from the Story of Babhruvahana (detail).

3a after

After treatment.

3b before

Marriage of Vrishaketu and the Daughter of King Yavanatha (detail).

3b after

After treatment.

Chail Norton, Assistant Conservator, Paper Conservation

Photos by Yosi Pozeilov, Senior Photographer, Conservation Center