|1- MA in Conservation of Cultural and Historical Objects, Faculty of Cultural Materials Conservation, Tabriz Islamic Art University, Tabriz, Iran , firstname.lastname@example.org
2- Associate Professor, Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Tourism (RICHT), Tehran, Iran
3- Assistant Professor, Faculty of Cultural Materials Conservation, Tabriz Islamic Art University, Tabriz, Iran
The more specialized and technical studies of historical paintings are the greater will be the history of Iranian art and, in fact, Iranian art and the identity of Iranian culture. Therefore, each of the historical cases will be valuable and influential. The purpose of this article is studying the nature of a destroyed paining on canvas and its overall shape, subject and identity which found in the storeroom of Mary Church of Isfahan. Accordingly, this article tries to answer the question of what is the nature of the painting discovered from the Mary Church of Isfahan? In order to achieve this goal, the library and field studies as well as laboratory studies including microscopic imaging and elemental analysis (SEM-EDS) was used for data collecting. In the following, it is attempted to prove the identity of the painting as Canvas-Marouflaged mural by comparative study of it with similar murals of the three churches of Vank, Maryam and Bethlehem. One of the main results of the research is the recognition of the painting from a technical and thematic point of view as well as its identification as a Canvas-Marouflaged mural and its presentation place at the time of the creation of the painting in front of the altar of Mary Church Isfahan.
Keywords: Canvas-Marouflaged Mural, Isfahan Mary Church, Painting, Angel of Seraphim.
Murals as visual art works are among the most significant architectural decorations that have undergone many changes over time. The factor that distinguishes these works from other paintings is their dependence to the architectural space, which is known as the determining factor of their identity and authenticity (ICOMOS, 1964). In fact, a mural is designed and executed to complement the architectural space. It is completely coordinated with that space, so separating it from the architecture and displaying it in another place can changes or loses the values of mural and endanger its identity. Therefore, the detailed study of paintings in order to know their identity and nature is necessary. Accordingly, the following points can be mentioned that clarify the necessity of this study: a) unknown specific characteristics for studied painting (marouflage), b) the lack of definite and specific criteria for displaying this painting, c) recognizing and differentiate the studied painting from the marouflage. Based on this, in this article, detailed studies have been carried out on an Iranian special painting, which at first glance seems to be the easel painting on canvas, which detailed investigations and studies present a hypothesis that it was a marouflage. The term marouflage refers to those paintings that are painted on a canvas and pasted on the wall in such a way that it is considered a part of the architecture. The marouflage separation from the original location distort its integrity and authenticity (Hamzavi et al., 2015: 131). This article aimed to find the nature of a historical painting discovered from Maryam Church in Isfahan, relying on technical studies and conservation issues, and tries to answer the main question of the research: What is the nature of discovered painting from Maryam Church in Isfahan?
Materials and Methods
The article is a qualitative and quantitative research based on the content of the research question and the achievement of the research aim. According to the type and necessity of the research, two theoretical and technical approaches can be introduced. In this research, primary data and information have been collected using the documentary and field methods as well as laboratory studies. Then the data has been analyzed according to the subject of the painting and its technical information to clarify how to perform the painting and display it (Figure 1).
The images, other than the ones mentioned in the reference, were took using a Canon EOS 700D / KissX7i DSLR camera with a Kit 18-135 lens. The metallography microscope model IMM 420 manufactured by Isfahan Optical Industries Company and fiberoptic device brand LECA CLS 100X connected to DSLR camera Canon EOS 700D / KissX7i used for imaging from the painting layers. Field emission electron microscope (FE-SEM) model MIRA3 manufactured by TESCAN company equipped with X-ray diffraction spectrometer (EDX) with resolution of 1.5 nm at 15 KV voltage and 4.5 nm at 1 KV voltage was used to determine the percentage of constituent elements and microscopic imaging with high magnification.
After attaching the pieces of painting on canvas, the subject of the painting was revealed, which is a painting with the theme of a six-winged angel named Serafin (or Seraphim) (Hospian, 2014). Based on the visual and artistic characteristics of the painting and according to the date of construction of the Church of Maryam, its approximate date is attributed to the 18th century. The studied painting is in the form of Pābārik under the dome. Pābārik is one of the components of Kārbandi and is in the form of a kite. The painting is done on a cotton fabric support, which consists of sewing two pieces of fabric together (Figure 15). Being two pieces due to the small width of the fabric can be interpreted in the direction of the traditional weave of the fabric and attribute the time of the work to at least before the invention of weaving machines in the 19th century. Also, the texture of the fabric shows the non-uniformity of the thickness of the threads that make up the fabric, which can be a sign of manual and traditional spinning. There is the trace of frame in the edge of the painting (Figure 13) and in this part, there was a nail trace along with rust (Figure 14). Microscopic examinations of the cross-section of the painting in the gilded part show the existence of six layers and in the blue part of the painting background five layers (Figure 16). No trace of crushed gold particles (pigment) which is used in the production of gold color was seen, and a continuous and uniform sheet is visible in the scanning electron microscope image.
Based on the shape, dimensions of the work, this hypothesis was created that the painting was probably custom made and adapted to one of the parts of the church building. According to the traces of nails left on the edge of the canvas, it installed on the wall after the execution. The subject of the painting is also related to the subjects of religion of Christians and is consistent with their beliefs. Visual observations of the interior of Maryam Church, Vank Church and Bethlehem Church in Isfahan show that the studied painting is compatible with other wall paintings in Armenian churches in terms of design, shape and subject. In such a way that the similar works are also in a Pābārik frame and they are executed as murals along with the image of the Seraphine angel with gilded wings under the dome. X-ray Electron Diffraction Spectroscopy (EDS) elemental analysis on the brown colored spots around the place of the nails in the edge of the support canvas (Figure 19, Table 1) shows the amounts of calcium oxide and sulfur oxide, which reinforces the possibility of the presence of calcium sulfate (gypsum). It strengthens the hypothesis of connecting the painting to a plaster wall.
The field survey of Maryam Church showed that the entire interior is covered with murals with various religious themes, except for the space in front of the altar, which it is contradictory by Christians believed in relation to the necessity of painting in all levels of churches. The existence of such a space inside the church creates the assumption that probably there were four murals in the Pābāriks in these parts as well. The size of the diameters of these Pābāriks is a little bigger than the studied painting. Comparing the Pābāriks of the three studied churches, it was determined that a decorative border was implemented around the angel.
According to the research on the nature of the painting, it can be concluded from the investigations that the studied painting is a marouflage that is pasted on the surface of the wall, and the place of its display was probably a Pabarik in the architectural space of the altar of Maryam Church in Isfahan.
The authors thank Tabriz Islamic Art University for providing the technical study of the painting.