Conservation of Kamal Morarka Haveli Musuem

With burgeoning tourism and interest in the havelis of Shekhavati, we initiated the conservation of Morarka Haveli and the idea of turning it into a museum – a museum of frescoes, artistic doors, stone pillars and cusped arches.

Although the havelis of Shekhavati are not state-protected monuments, there is nevertheless a stream of tourists who pour in to see the magnificent frescoes on the walls of these havelis which serve as an open-air art gallery. There is therefore a need to protect this heritage for generations to come.

All of the outer facade of Morarka Haveli, its inner courtyards, the Nohra, porticos and arches are decorated with frescoes depicting scenes from the Ramayana, Krishna-Leela, Shiva, Ganesh and Vishnu themes, Christ, royal processions, festivals like Gangaur, folk tales like Dhola-Maru, portraits of Rajputs and Europeans and other decorative designs. Tall arches on the outer gateway and toran (door) are encrusted with mirrors known as Jamia Kanch (concave mirrors).

With the ravages of time, the haveli witnessed growth of vegetation and micro-organism deposits, discolouration, vandalism and neglect. For the haveli to be turned into a museum, it would be necessary to preserve the original art and architecture through a well-planned restoration. Chemical treatment was used for cleaning accumulated surface deposits of algae, smoke, whitewash, water stains etc in order to see the paintings emerge in all clarity. Tarnished brass, rusted iron, yellowed stones and termites were carefully treated with chemicals as well. During this chemical treatment, there was no retouching of the paintings as coating preservatives made of synthetic polymers like PVA also darken and yellow over time.More...

The paintings in the inner courtyard that were blackened due to smoke from the kitchen were cleaned using 50% Aqueous Ammoniacal Labolene solution. Labolene, a non-ionic detergent which has no adverse effects is also used to clean dirty yellow discolouration on stones with carvings. Emery paper no. 80 is used to erase hard stains. However, constant smoke and water from the kitchen has faded the paintings in this area. On account of rainwater and movement of people around the balconies on the terrace, the frescoes underneath brackets have flaked and faded. The cleaning is done very carefully, using 5% aqueous detergent in 5% Sodium salt of Carboxymethyl Cellosolve. A tissue paper is pasted over it and left overnight to prolong the effect of the cleaning agent. The surface of the painting is washed with water using a sponge. Dark stains are removed using erasing paper (Ragmal 80 waterproof) for white uncloured surfaces. It is always found that there is some loss of the paint after washing and the colours look a little diminished.

Fresco paintings are executed on a white surface made by lime and white marble powder called jhinki. A glossy and smooth surface known as arayish, panna or simla is obtained once it dries. The wet plaster is beaten, burnished and polished till it is dry. Even earlier, sea shells were burnt in order to make jhinki powder. For painting, a drawing or sinopia (rough picture) is made and a final layer of lime marble is applied. The colours are applied on the wet apper surface with a brush and the colours become fast due to carbonisation of the lime. On drying, the paintings become part of the wall surface. Stone or brick support is first given a thick layer of coarse lime plaster made from lime and red brick (surkhi) powder in 1:3 proportion. It is evened out with a wooden trowel and allowed to dry for a fortnight. This is called Arricio (rough layer). Another layer of the lime plaster is applied after moistening the dry surface with water. The surface is again finished with a trowel. This layer is called Intonaco and is also allowed to dry. Lastly, for painting or arayish, the lime jhinki plaster is applied.

It is found that the damage is usually in these separate layers, that is, the Arricio, Intonaco and paint layers. In the case of Secco paintings where colours are fixed on the dry Intonaco surface using adhesives like gum, it is mostly the paint surface that is flaking or peeling off. The colours for fresco paintings are used depending on their availability and stability on lime surface exposed to air. Colours were prepared using indigenous techniques. Earth colours are obtained from stones and minerals after pulverising them and purifying in water. Colours like Hirmiz (red), Ramraj (yellow), brown, terraverte (green), lime (white), lamp black, indigo or lapis lazuli (blue) were used in early paintings as these were stable in the alkalinity of the lime. But later, vegetable colours and synthetic dyes were used as these were found to give dark tones. ultramarine blue, chrome red and emerald green were imported from Germany and used in the Secco technique.

This haveli has been conserved to keep its art and architecture in preserved status. -