Examination of an ancient Egyptian inlaid eye

For more stories from other conservation departments at the Fitzwilliam Museum, visit the Conservation and Collections Care blog!

This post was written last year by Alexandra Zappa, a former objects conservation intern in the Department of Antiquities. Alex graduated from UCL with an MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums in 2012 and is currently working as a conservator in the United States.

One of the projects I was involved with since the beginning of my internship is the technical examination of a group of Ancient Egyptian inlaid eyes. The Ancient Egyptians used inlaid eyes in a variety of objects including statues, coffin masks, anthropoid coffins, in rectangular coffins and inlaid into the eyes of mummies.

Alex Zappa examining an inlaid ancient Egyptian eye under the microscope
Alex Zappa examining an inlaid ancient Egyptian eye under the microscope

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Reconstructing a 15th-century panel painting

Pia and I are currently first-year students at the Hamilton Kerr Institute (HKI). During the three-year training program, we will receive theoretical and practical instruction in the conservation treatments of easel paintings. We work in the studio alongside two third-year students, six interns, and staff members.The best way to learn about the materials and techniques used by past artists is to make reconstructions of paintings. Any visitor only needs to look at the walls of the HKI office to realize how big a role reconstructions play in the work of the Institute. They are covered with copies of paintings – from 15th-century Italian to Impressionist! Many of them are extensive research projects completed by previous third-year students and interns. Practical research can provide unique insights into the working practices of different artists. Some answers can only be obtained by getting your hands dirty!

Reconstructions hanging in the Hamilton Kerr Institute

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