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. -