Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science

Profound study of hydrous and solvent interactions in cleaning Asian lacquer

This study is a BRAIN project (Belgian Research Action through Interdisciplinary Networks) which is fully funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) consisting of KIK-IRPA, RMAH and UGhent as first line partners. In the joint PhD integrated in the overall project the other partners mentioned on this page are involved.

The research focuses on the scientific study of interactions of cleaning solvents with the lacquer surface in order to formulate “best practices” for cleaning Asian lacquers. The emphasis is put upon possible changes in chemical and physical aspects of the lacquer through solvent and aqueous cleaning.

To elucidate the solvent/lacquer interactions the degree of leaching and swelling of the polymeric network will be evaluated and chemical analyses will be carried out at KIK-IRPA, UGhent and the RCE, applying mainly complimentary chromatographic and mass spectrometric techniques. Special attention will be paid to the lacquer collection of the RMAH, evaluating the current condition of the lacquerware and proposing “best practices” for safe cleaning and hence long-term preservation.

Finally, some objects actually stored in the reserves, will be cleaned using solvents, which are – based on the outcome of the chemical research – proven to be safe and effective.


A Japanese Inro (M.1137) from the lacquer collection Royal Museum of Art and History (Brussels).

Project acronym


Principal researcher

Jonas Veenhoven (KIK/IRPA, University of Ghent).

Type of project

Joint PhD.

Participating researchers.

  • Delphine Mesmaeker
  • Steven Saverwyns
  • Frederic Lynen
  • Nathalie Vandeperre
  • Maarten van Bommel
  • Henk van Keulen
  • Michael Schilling
  • Marianne Webb

Institutions involved

  • Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK/IRPA), Brussels
  • Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH), Brussels
  • Ghent University (UGhent)
  • University of Amsterdam (UvA)
  • Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE)
  • Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), Los Angeles

Funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO).

Published by  NICAS

15 January 2018