Funding received for rare Japanese painting found in Central Library Collections

Repair work underway for rare 18th Century Japanese handscroll painting


Edinburgh’s Central Library is on its way to conserving and displaying a rare 18th Century Japanese handscroll painting that was discovered in the library’s special collections, thanks to securing a grant from The Sumitomo Foundation.

Edinburgh City Libraries has been awarded the ‘Grant for the Protection, Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties outside Japan’ from The Sumitomo Foundation, which provides grants to projects involving old and artistically or academically valuable artefacts. The funding is worth 500,000 Japanese Yen (approximately £20,400).

At over 44ft in length, the scroll is thought to be the largest painting ever discovered by Japanese artist Furuyama Moromasa. Two further paintings by Moromasa are currently held by the British Museum. Central Library’s scroll depicts an extended street scene in C18th Edo, or Tokyo, showing the shops and theatres and domestic detail of life at that time.

The scroll, entitled ‘Pleasures of the East’, was gifted to Edinburgh City Libraries by a relative of Henry Dyer, a Scottish engineer who played a major part in the industrialisation of Japan, but its true significance was only realised through partnership with experts at the National Museums of Scotland.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Culture and Sport Convener, said: “Thanks to the funding from The Sumitomo Foundation, we will be able to restore Moromasa’s beautiful painting to its former glory. Without the passion and knowledge of our library staff we may not have even discovered the true significance of this very rare artefact but we now we are on track to make sure the scroll can be displayed and enjoyed in the heart of Edinburgh.”

Dr Rosina Buckland, Senior Curator of National Museums Scotland's Japanese collections, worked with Edinburgh City Libraries to help interpret the scroll using her knowledge of the period. She said:  “This Japanese handscroll is a wonderfully lively and beautifully painted work. It is around 300 years old, and therefore needs urgent conservation attention. The financial support from the Sumitomo Foundation is crucial in ensuring this important artwork is cared for in the long term. Once the treatment is complete, the handscroll will be available for scholars to study, and for the public to enjoy on display.”

The conservation work began in May this year and is being carried out by Restorient Studios in Leiden in the Netherlands, which specialises in restoration work of oriental art on silk and paper.

Find out more about Edinburgh City Libraries Special Collections on the Council’s website.


Notes to Editors:

· Henry Dyer was appointed as principal of the Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo in 1873, where he stayed for 10 years, turning the College into the most advanced institute of its kind in the world.

· His courses revolutionised learning by involving a considerable amount of practical work during the four year course – basically an apprenticeship scheme, which proved hugely successful for both the level of Japanese workmanship and expertise in industry.

· To celebrate Dyer’s influence he received the Order of the Rising Sun (Third Class) from the Emperor in 1882, followed by the Order of the Sacred Treasure 2nd class in June 1909.

· The material now held by Edinburgh City Libraries was gifted in the 1940s by Henry Dyer’s daughter.

· The handscroll painting is by Furuyama Moromasa (fl. 1741–48), in ink and colours on paper; Signed 'Nihon eshi Furuyama Moromasa e' [Picture by Furuyama Moromasa, painter of Japan'].

· Restorient Studios will conduct a detailed examination of the current condition of the scroll, before removing and repairing all parts of the artwork.

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