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Athens, Preventive Conservation of Textiles

This research has been produced as part of an academic survey of a collection of Orthodox ecclesiastical liturgical garments, known as sakkoi , from the monastic centre of the Holy Mountain of Athos.

Lecturer in Preventive Conservation & History Christos Karydis
 
 



THE ETHICAL DILEMMAS OF THE PRESERVATION OF ´RELIC´ TEXTILES: SAKKOS OF SAINT NIFON

This research has been produced as part of an academic survey of a collection of Orthodox ecclesiastical liturgical garments, known as sakkoi , from the monastic centre of the Holy Mountain of Athos. These garments are identified as materials with ´high spiritual´ cultural significance with related symbols and codes from which they can be classified. The survey divides the collection into a three tier hierarchy, one of which is the ´relic´ garment and the sakkos of St. Nifon falls in this category.
St Nifon had been the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for three periods (1486-7, 1497-8, and 1502) before he retired to the Holy Monastery of St. Dionisiou in Mount Athos. He brought with him and donated to the monastery many items, as is commonly found in ecclesiastical history. One of these was a woven silk sakkos, decorated with repeat medallion motifs of Christ as High Priest in gold metallic threads. Around the Christ motif is an inscription, unusual in that is shown in reverse- as if the weaver had woven the fabric back to front or the pattern- cutter had laid it up on the reverse side.
Evidence of the veneration afforded this garment is found in the cut, torn and shredded edges where worshippers have taken relics as part of their reverence. One small section of the textile was recently discovered in a reliquary in another part of the monastery, which would seem to support this hypothesis.
These fabrics are also characterised as ´therapeutic´ or ´healing objects´. According to Orthodox tradition the fabrics, after being in contact with holy bones are automatically blessed, and can thus be venerated themselves, with believers sometimes taking small threads from them as a blessing and protection. In the Byzantine period, relics and all the materials, which have been placed or found together with them, were objects of priceless value. To see or to touch them was to come into direct contact with God, who was otherwise almost unimaginably distant and inaccessible.
The fabrics used to wrap the bodily remains or the actually garments of Saints were never disposed of by the clergy, even when they lost their freshness and radiance. In fact, having numerous stains and marks of damage increases their authenticity for most believers. This poster presents an overview of the ethical dilemmas, raised in conservation treatment. Major treatments such as aqueous or solvent cleaning, mechanical removal of the dust and dirt deposits, which could be seen as appropriate for other type of textiles and important for their preservation, are not necessarily suitable for ´relic´ textiles of this type as they would remove information important for future researchers.
The examination of the sakkos of St. Nifon has provided an opportunity to develop an understanding of the wide range of materials used and the traditions inherent in the creation of such objects of spiritual cultural significance. Appropriate strategies for preventive conservation and collection care can be derived from this understanding


Preservation of Ecclesiastical Garments from the Holy Mountain of Athos: Research- Methodology- Ethi

This paper reports on the findings from a survey of a collection of ecclesiastical garments known as sakkoi from the Holy Mountain of Athos.
It begins with a discussion of nomenclature and addresses the issue prevalent in Byzantine Studies, as to the derivation of this liturgical garment and applies approaches ranging from art historic and semiotic to scientific examination using sophisticated analytical techniques, to place it in a cultural, historic and technological context.
The Athos collection, previously un-researched, dates from 15th to 19th century and contains robes worn by Bishops, Patriarchs and Emperors. The survey, which examines 52 separate items from 14 monasteries, identifies constructional and stylistic detail, material components and technological evidence such as fibres, metal threads, dyes and weaving techniques, whilst analysing sources of degradation and damage. This paper demonstrates not only the scope of the survey methodology for elucidating new information about specific items but also its potential to add to the body of knowledge relating to the history, development and use of such garments.
One purpose of the original study was to enable intellectual access to this ´closed´ collection and the mechanism for disseminating this information and its relevance to current understanding will also be discussed. Attention will also be focussed on approaches to preventative conservation that can be adopted to preserve this as a ´living´ collection, including guidelines for the continuing use of certain of the garments. The spiritual dimension of these artefacts is thus discussed within the framework of conservation ethics.


IDENTIFICATION OF DYES ON ECCLESIASTICAL GARMENTS FROM THE HOLY MOUNTAIN OF ATHOS: THE SAKKOS OF EMP

Textiles of the Byzantine and post Byzantine period have been scarcely studied, despite the relatively large and impressive collection of garments which is spread around the several monasteries of the most important monastic centre of the Orthodox Church such as the Holy Mountain of Athos. Very limited data are available for these precious textile artefacts of the eastern Euro-Mediterranean cultural heritage. Their origin, is usually not well documented or proven and therefore questionable. The colorants used to decorate these textiles, are highly unknown, as they have not been analyzed in detail by modern analytical equipment techniques. The latter is the primary goal of the present investigation.

An important ecclesiastical garment has been selected as a case study in the present paper. The object of interest is displayed in the monastery of Iveron, situated at the eastern side of Mount Athos. Although not scientifically proven, it is believed as the tradition assign that this precious garment belonged to the Byzantine emperor Ioannis Tsimiskis who lived in the 10th century (963- 69) and is considered to be one the most important figures of the Byzantine history. The results, obtained by analyzing the colorants of this garment are interpreted in the light of similar analytical data obtained from six other garments, dated from the 15th up to the 19th century.

High Performance Liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled to a Diode Array Detector (DAD) was utilized to identify the organic dyes in reddish samples extracted from selected areas of the garment. The results can be summarized as follows: soluble redwood, sappanwood (Caesalpinia sappan L.) and young fustic (Cotinus coggygira Scop.) were found in mixture, along with traces of indigotin, which indicated the presence of an indigoid dye source (indigo, woad). Several laccaic acids, the major colouring components of lac dye, (Kerrian lacca) were identified in mixture with alizarin and purpurin, which apparently indicated the presence of madder. All these dyes, except lac dye, were also found in several other samples extracted from six other garments (15th-"19th cent.), dated after the sakkos of Ioannis Tsimiskis.

In this paper an effort to combine the analytical results with the available stylistic historical information and the conclusions obtained by analyzing the cut & construction of the tested garment will be performed. Based on this, a discussion about the origin of the garment of Ioannis Tsimiskis will be finally presented.


THE FABRIC SUPPORT IN PORTABLE ICONS: DETERIORATION, DOCUMENTATION & CONSERVATION

Traditionally and until the present time, one of the first stages in the construction of a portable icon is the application of the fabric (pavoloko) directly on the wooden support, using either organic or, more recently, synthetic adhesives prior to the application of the gesso layer.
The aim of this paper is to raise the awareness of the icon conservator/ restorer regarding the need to adopt a general approach in the treatment and documentation of the fabric material properties in comparison with the other component materials.
The current research is split into three main sections presenting an overall view of the subject such as the deterioration factors, methods of documentation and conservation of the fabric.
Therefore fabric, is part of the construction of icons and, as an organic material, brings with it particular types of deterioration, which can be caused by unstable environmental conditions in display and storage (relative humidity & temperature). This can create expansion and contraction of both the wooden and textile supports and these are not necessarily compatible and stresses may result. There is also potential for the development of micro organisms and insect infestation. Types of deterioration which have been identified relating to the fabric support are its separation from the wood, splits and losses, mechanical decay and decomposition from biological agents. These all need careful documentation when the icon is first investigated. Previous restoration, which may have used a variety of varnishes often mixed with pigments and other natural products to ´camouflage´ damaged areas for aesthetic reasons, or varnishes applied also on the fabric layer as a final coating lead to further problems.
Although the fabric is one of the critical elements in the icon, in as much as it may secure the paint layer onto a decaying support, it has been observed that icon conservators do not always tend to give proper attention to this material during documentation. At this point, analytical and investigative techniques could play an integral role in the identification of the fabric, its material and technological details, as part of standard documentation prior to any treatment.
Identification of the fibres used in icons under the microscope will show different structures (linen, jute, cotton) by examining both longitudinal and cross sections. In the presentation, emphasis will also be given to two basic weaving types found in icons which are very familiar to textile conservators but perhaps not to other conservators specialising in different fields. In identifying the construction of the textile and it´s weaving technology, the icon conservator/restorer gains further knowledge about the pathology of the artefact, important for decisions regarding the selection of appropriate materials to use in the treatment to avoid further damage to the cellulose or protein fabric structure with strong alkali and acid adhesives or solvents. The paper will also forward questions for a unified approach to documentation of this important element of the icon´s structure, that can be used across monastic and museum collections stored and displayed in Greece and put forward a proforma (data base) suitable for the archival purposes of both textile researchers and icon conservators.
The paper will conclude with the investigation of synthetic and organic adhesives used for the treatment of fragile historic and archaeological textiles considered for use by the icon conservator. Related case studies will also investigate the application of these adhesives to the artefacts in various chronological periods by different workshops. This will benefit further research into the adhesive treatments that may be considered in the future.


The Textile Collection of the Museum of Greek Folk Art in Athens: Transition to Preventive Conservat

The Museum of Greek Folk Art (MGFA) is one of the major and oldest museums of modern Greece, maintaining an exceptionally rich textile collection dating from the 4th- 5th c. until 20th c. The MGFA, a museum pioneer of its time, faces the challenge of reaching modern, international standards; especially on the interpretation and the care of its collections.

It is only recently that attention has been given to preventive conservation separately from interventive conservation. The results from this dissertation will be the first systematic preventive conservation documentation in MGFA textile collections.

One purpose of the original study was to enable intellectual access to this clutter collection and the mechanism for disseminating this information and its relevance to current understanding will also be discussed.

Emphasis and evaluation are given to the documentation of the objects, the previous display and storage techniques (mechanical damages), environmental fluctuations, photo-degradation, indoor volatile gases emitted by wood (VOC), insect infestation and house keeping. New materials and methods of storage will be recommended taking into consideration the new approaches in preventive conservation.





The Orthodox Christian Sakkos. Repentance Garments dating to the 15th- 20th c. from the Holy Mountai

This academic work focuses on the research findings from a collection survey of Euro-Mediterranean post-Byzantine ecclesiastical garments, known as sakkoi, from the Holy Mountain of Athos located in Chalkidiki, Greece. According to the World Heritage Committee, Mount Athos is considered to be of an outstanding universal value, as it is the most important monastic centre of the Christian Orthodox Church.
The sakkos appeared to be an evolution of the Greek chiton (10th– 8th BC) to the Roman dalmatic (180- 192 AD). Later on, used as an imperial Byzantine garment, which by the 11th-12th century had been adopted by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to indicate his status and privilege. It was only after the fall of Constantinople, that this was extended to all the Bishops of the Orthodox Church. The study begins with a discussion of the nomenclature, while it addresses the issue prevalent in Byzantine and post-Byzantine research, as to the historical provenance of
this liturgical garment. Different approaches ranging from art historic and semiotic research to scientific examination using sophisticated analytical techniques are applied, in order to introduce a cultural, historical and technological context of the garments. The Mount Athos sakkoi, never previously researched, date from the end of the 15th to the 20th century and they are garments worn by Patriarchs, Bishops, and Emperors. The survey examines fifty two sakkoi from fourteen monasteries, identifying constructional and stylistic details, material components using analytical techniques (Optical Microscopy, HPLC and SEM-EDS) and technological evidence such as fibres, dyes, metal threads and weaving techniques, whilst analysing the sources of degradation and decay. This research demonstrates not only the scope of a conservation collection survey methodology for elucidating new information about specific items but also it’s potential to add to the knowledge relating to the history, development and use of such garments. An effort to combine the analytical results with the available stylistic historical information and the conclusions obtained by analyzing the cut and construction of the tested garments was also performed. A major purpose of the study was to enable intellectual access to this inaccessible collection and the mechanism for disseminating this information.The Athonian garments had not been previously documented and the first stage of this research was to design pro forma to record all details related to materials, manufacture and condition. This record includes detailed information regarding: materials; technological and constructional details; alterations and repairs during use; previous restorations and condition assessment. This, together with systematic illustrative material, in the form of drawings, photographs and microphotographs, has been designed to contribute to the preservation of these artefacts, serving also as a surrogate to reduce the need for future handling. Moreover, it facilitates access for female researchers to this invaluable and unique collection. Major attention was also drawn on new preventive conservation approaches that can be adopted to preserve the
items as a ‘living’ collection, including guidelines for the continuation of production of those garments. The spiritual dimension of these artefacts is thus discussed within the framework of conservation ethics. The difficulties for the achievement of the aims and objectives of the current investigation were significant. Among these, the lack of published literature together with the un-catalogued archives led to a plethora of problems. Of course, the oral sources coming form the sacristans were of high importance since they were the ones offering valuable information. This research offers for the very first time, a complete assemblage of knowledge regarding the production, synthesis, condition and display of the ecclesiastical Athonian sakkoi.


Published by Archaeopress. British Archaeological Reports
Oxford
www.archaeopress.com
ISBN 9781407307169
410 pages; illustrated throughout; with CD-Rom


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