Elephantine canvas awaits Graber touch

Marcus Dam

Victoria Memorial authorities have approached the Moscow Institute, one of the world's premier art conservation centres

More than 200 paintings have been restored so farRestoration of the largest painting to cost Rs. 75 lakhGraber has modern techniques to restore paintings

KOLKATA: Authorities of Kolkata's Victoria Memorial, which celebrates its centenary this year, have approached Moscow's Graber Institute - acknowledged to be one of the world's premier art conservation centres - for restoration of the largest oil painting, "The Elephant Procession: The Prince of Wales visiting Jaipur," a three-dimensional 1876 work in ''vegetable colour'' by Georgian painter V. Verestchagin. The painting will be displayed in galleries across Asia.

Some 200 of the 400 oil paintings exhibited in the Victoria Memorial's 22 galleries have been restored over the last 15 years by conservators drawn from different parts of the world as well as the country.

Present target

''Another 50 need restoration immediately, our present target is 15, and work on three large-scale paintings of more than 100 years old is expected to be completed by next month," C.K. Panda, curator, told The Hindu .

"The painting, which is considered to be among the largest in the world, was acquired by Lord Curzon, Governor-General and Viceroy of India, from a private collector in New Haven in the United States in 1903 and was on display in the Royal Gallery of the Victoria Memorial since 1921 till it was shut down for renovation and converted into a storehouse for paintings awaiting restoration two years ago. It will be re-opened to the public by year-end.

"The painting measures 695.96 cm by 497.84 cm and the authorities are keen to entrust the job of restoring it to the Graber Institute as the centre is one of the few in the world to be equipped with 'a most scientific and sophisticated system for cleaning and conservation of art-work and having the needed expertise to execute the work," Prof. Panda said.

Negotiations started with the institute a few years ago but were suspended owing to certain technical difficulties till they were resumed recently. Russian experts have estimated that restoration of the painting would cost about Rs. 75 lakh, he added.

Besides the paintings and other exhibits that have been ravaged by time and need restoration, the exteriors of Victoria Memorial have also been affected due to environmental degradation. Repair work has been taken up by the Archaeological Survey of India and is expected to be completed within three years.

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