Treating a Moorish Islamic ceiling at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Editor's note: The Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation is one of only five graduate-level conservation programs in the United States. Graduate students in the program spend their third year in an advanced internship at museums and studios around the world.

Here, Kate Wight reports on her work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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10:39 a.m., March 19, 2009----At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, much energy is going into the reinstallation of the Islamic wing. As part of this massive project, I am involved in treating a Moorish Islamic ceiling from Spain.

The extensive ceiling has been disassembled for treatment. There are 4 corner panels, 13 main panels, 12 cornice panels and 5 stalactites. The panels are constructed of pine boards with carved, painted, and gilded elements. The ceiling is decorated with Islamic-style geometric star patterns. The ceiling was constructed in the first half of the 16th century A.D. and was a gift of the Hearst Foundation in 1956. It is one a group of trough-shaped ceilings that were popular during the period of the Nasrids of Granada (1230-1492).

A team of six conservators is currently working on the ceiling. The main objectives are structural stabilization, consolidation, and cleaning of paint and gilded areas. Some compensation for loss is considered in areas of large loss to the pattern and/or structural loss. The ceiling will be reinstalled with the rest of the Islamic wing and will serve as a context object in a textile gallery.