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Document Details :
Title: Het somptueuze interieur van de Japanse Toren te Laken
Subtitle: Een publiek geheim onderzocht
Author(s): VERDONCK, Ann , DECEUNINCK, Marjolein , DECROLY, Marianne , MESMAEKER, Delphine , URBAN, Françoise
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Interieurgeschiedenis en Design
Volume: 39 Date: 2014-2016
The Japanese Tower has not been open to the public since 1947, which has undoubtedly contributed to the many years of neglect suffered by this extraordinary piece of national heritage. Even though it is a prominent feature along the Van Praetlaan, just on the edge of the royal domain, the Japanese Tower has long been denied the attention that it deserves. On behalf of the Belgian Buildings Agency Fenikx bvba carried out an examination of materials and techniques, which involved a fresh look at the interior of the Tower’s five floors and staircase. The Japanese Tower was designed for Leopold II by the French architect Alexandre Marcel (1860-1928). It was built as a means towards initiating trade relations with China and Japan. One of the challenges during the examination was the search for distinctions between the Japanese and European components. In reality this proved to be a difficult task because many of the Japanese elements were ‘reworked’ by Europeans during or shortly after assembly. This impression first arose during examination in situ, and it was largely confirmed subsequently by information obtained through archival research (invoices). Examination of the polychromy revealed an impressive range of techniques: Japanese lacquer, Japanese aventurine, matt Japanese polychromy, European aventurine, European polychromy on staff work, on wood and on canvas, European finishing on top of Japanese finishing, and Japanese technique on top of Japanese technique. A second important category of materials is metal, which can be subdivided into decorative appliqués, lighting armatures, and fastenings. Most of the metal was originally gilded, sometimes in combination with coloured varnish. Besides metal and polychromy, the Japanese Tower also features embossed wallpaper, two types of Lincrusta, and different marouflaged cloths. The state of preservation of the interior varies from reasonable to catastrophically poor. That is why any proposal for conservation must be based specifically on each type of material and the degree of decay, and take into account the overall harmony and the relationship between the individual elements. It is thus absolutely essential that the future conservation campaign involves a search for a treatment that takes into account the overall decoration and the relationship between the various elements.