Restoration of Egyptian shroud. II-nd c. AD.
from the collection of The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts

International conservation project

2015 — 2016

About the project

An ancient Egyptian burial shroud dated back to the II century BC is one of the most significant pieces in The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.

The work on the piece had continued for several months, from September 2015 till June 2016. The specialists from renowned museums and research institutions of Moscow, Paris and New York took part in the project.

Here you can learn about the shroud’s history, conservation, and more.


This burial shroud comes from the collection of the Russian Egyptologist and Orientalist Vladimir Golenishchev (1856–1947), a professional scholar who spent thirty years of his life collecting oriental antiquities, and in 1909 sold his collection to the Museum of Fine Arts. The Collection of Golenishchev contains about seven thousand objects, but this one is truly unique. There are only six such shrouds known in the world, and this is the only one depicting a woman holding a child by the hand.

Painted burial shrouds were made in Egypt in the Greco-Roman period (4th century B.C.– 4th century A.D.). The first examples of burial shrouds go back to the first century B.C., but their mass production was carried out in the second-third centuries A.D. Most burial shrouds come from the ancient necropoleis of Memphis (Sakkara), Thebes, and Faiyum.

Conservation treatments were preceded by technical and technological studies of the piece. It included paint layer analysis (studying of the pigments and adhesives used to paint the image and during previous conservation treatments), as well as IR and UV photography. The research helped to evaluate the state of preservation of the shroud and to determine the techniques used to manufacture the piece, as well as the degree to which time and other external factors have affected it.

Just like most archaeological pieces the shroud has been subjected to conservation treatments more than once. In XIX century the shroud was lined and stretched on an underframe. The research had shown that gelatinous glue was used for lining. The natural aging process caused the glue to dry out. In its turn, it resulted in increased rigidity and brittleness of the threads, led to numerous fractures and deformations of the canvas, as well as to swelling and chipping of the paint layer. Besides that, the glue had soaked through the paint layers staining the surface of the shroud.

We must agree, however, that this unprofessional (from the point of view of the contemporary approach) conservation helped to preserve the piece in a relatively good state, despite the numerous losses.

Our main task was to suspend the ongoing deterioration and to make it possible to exhibit the piece. During the work, the classic archaeological textile conservation methods were used, as well as the techniques to treat tempera paintings and graphics.

The biggest challenge during the first stage of the work was to remove the XIX century lining. A large amount of gypsum contained in the pigments made it impossible to use water-based solutions. For several months, the conservators had been removing the lining millimetre by millimetre with special spatulas.

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The Institute and Museum of Anthropology at Moscow State University

Moscow State University Faculty of Biology

State Historical Museum

Russian State University for the Humanities

Panasonic Corporation

Microsystemy Ltd

The Grabar Art Conservation Center

LLC "Fenomen"