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Restoration of the Buddhist Icon-scroll of the Healing Buddha, from the Khara-Khoto Collection (12th–13th Century)

The State Hermitage is home to some unique Buddhist icons from Khara-Khoto (12th–14th centuries) that were brought back from Piotr Kozlov’s 1907–09 archaeological expedition. The image of Bhaiṣajya-guru, the Healing Buddha – one of three unrestored icons on this subject – is among the extremely rare examples of mediaeval of Chinese painting executed in the Tibetan tradition. Considering its uniqueness, this icon should be on view in the display.

The scroll was executed in a complex technique – distemper painting on primed silk. The support has suffered badly: the silk has become dilapidated, breaking down into individual threads in the upper part. The painted layer is completely covered with craquelure and is separating from the support. There are considerable losses. Deposits of clay and earth, stains and runs can be seen across the entire surface of the painting. Following the expedition, the scroll was pasted onto thick acidic cardboard.

  • Before restoration
  • Before restoration
  • Before restoration
  • Before restoration
  • Before restoration
  • Before restoration
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The restoration work required includes:

  • removal of accretions and soiling;
  • reinforcing of the paint layer and plastification;
  • separation of the scroll from the cardboard; removal of glue stains and the remnants of the cardboard;
  • making good the losses of primer; pasting up the tears; relaying the threads of the silk; adding a new lining;
  • making a backing from non-acidic cardboard and attaching the icon to it.

Carrying out the measures listed will halt the deterioration of a unique artefact, bring it into scholarly circulation and provide the opportunity to display it in exhibitions.

A working group has been formed from members of the State Hermitage staff for the restoration of the icon-scroll:

Kira Samosiuk - the keeper, chief researcher of the Department of the East;

Yelena Shishkova - head of the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Oriental Painting, an artist-restorer of the highest category;

Konstantin Siniavsky - photographer;

Yevgeny Feodorov - project co-ordinator, head of the Project Finance Sector of the Development Service.

To support the project please contact Fedorov Evgeny at