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A Sparkling Surprise – Hiroshige and Two Fish

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Time at home has given Paper Conservator Amy Junker Heslip time to reflect on some of the objects that have passed through her hands for conservation treatments and exhibition preparation.

This week I have still been dreaming of nature but this time I have been thinking of how much I miss looking out at the water on my way to work in Brighton.

I have had the joy of working on lots of seascapes in my work as paper conservator at the Royal Pavilion, but my absolute favourite of all was last year during my work on the Floating Worlds Exhibition in Brighton Museum.

Hiroshige ‘Shimadai and Ainame

This print of Hiroshige ‘Shimadai and Ainame’ (striped bream and rock-trout) from the series A shoal of fish c1832-42 is just a joy to look at. The image is both calming and so life like. And, if you get the absolute treat of looking at it up close and with light to the side of it, you will see the fish sparkle in the light as if the scales are alive and moving.

This is because mica – the name given to a group of silicate minerals ground down to create a sparkling powder and today often used in makeup – has been added to the print. It is on the backs of the fish after the print had dried and was made to stick to the surface of the print with egg white or rice start paste. The result is a real joy to discover.

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Amy Junker Heslip, Paper Conservator