The Return of the Roundel


Curatorial staff replacing the newly conserved roundel.

Over the past couple months, you may have noticed our lovely wooden roundel absent in the courtyard. Today, we’re happy to announce its return from rehab– at a conservation facility, of course.

Decorative elements such as these were common architectural features in China for centuries, and can still be seen today. Often gilt or painted, these carved wooden features came in all shapes and sizes to add interest to both indoor and outdoor spaces. In addition to this roundel, you can also find examples of Chinese wood carving decorations outlining the celadon doors on either side of the courtyard.

Closeup of dragon on roundel, after conservation.

Closeup of dragon and bats on roundel, after conservation.

This particular piece features a dragon with bats among the clouds. We’ve already shared the symbolism of the dragon in Chinese culture in our Lunar New Year post. Bats are also considered lucky symbols as the Chinese word for “bat” is a homonym for “luck,” and are often shown in groups of auspicious numbers.

The roundel has a long history in our building– it hung in the courtyard in the days of Grace Nicholson, and remained in the garage of her secretary after her death as the building became the Pasadena Art Museum. When Peg and Everett Palmer and the Pacificulture Foundation moved into the space shortly after the Pasadena Art Museum relocated, they contacted the secretary and found the roundel in pieces. They painstakingly pieced it back together and hung it on the courtyard wall where it returns today.


The roundel before conservation.

Because of the inherent fragility of wood and its initially fragmented state, we brought in a conservator to improve its condition, generously funded by the Questers. The conservators acted with the goal of preserving the existing wood and paint remnants by gently cleaning the surface and applying a resin to protect the remaining paint. They also used an infill sparingly to preserve structural integrity and prevent moisture from penetrating the wood. With these methods, we’ll be able to keep this beautiful piece on display much longer. We encourage you to come see the improvements in person! ~CM


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