Maria Brunskog

Universitetslektor vid Konstvetenskapliga institutionen

070-167 99 60
Engelska parken,
Thunbergsvägen 3H
752 38 UPPSALA
Box 630
751 26 UPPSALA


Som lektor i kulturvård undervisade jag på de två kandidatprogrammen i kulturvård, ett med inriktning mot föremål och ett med inriktning mot byggnader.

Den forskning jag nu bedriver avspeglar både min ämnesmässiga kompetens, bakgrund och mina intressen - tillämpad materialvetenskap, dvs olika sätt att undersöka och förstå av vad och hur föremål och byggnader är tillverkade. Efter att ha arbetat som konservator med möbler och föremål av trä under tjugo år, vid olika museer i Sverige och Danmark, fortsatte jag mina studier på doktorandnivå vid Göteborgs universitet. År 2003 disputerade jag på en doktorsavhandling som undersöker vilka bevarandeproblem som finns för lackerade arbeten, och i förlängningen för polykroma ytbehandlingar på trä.

Sedan 2012 samarbetar jag med Department of Applied Chemistry, Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan. Genom att arbeta i mångdisciplinära team så uppnås stora fördelar vid studiet av östasiatiska lackföremål som av olika anledningar hamnat i svenska offentliga samlingar.

Åren 2017-2021 var jag huvudhandledare för en doktorand i ett projekt om färg på metall utomhus, en vanlig materialkombination i bland annat industrihistoriska föremål och konstruktioner i kulturhistoriskt intressanta byggnader. Tidigare har jag medverkat som bihandledare i en studie om färg på trä samt som opponent respektive betygsnämndsledamot i Danmark och Sverige.


Mina forskningsintressen: Asiatiska lacker i svenska offentliga samlingar, historiska tekniker, traditionella material, datering, proveniens, nedbrytning, bevarande, mening, kulturhistoriska värden.


Brunskog, M and T. Miyakoshi

The Legacy of Carl Peter Thunberg Examined: Analyses of Unique Sources of Information on the Japanese Edo-Period Urushi Craft
published May 2024 in Materia. Journal of Technical Art History

The research presented in this article aims to highlight the scholarly and cultural-historical significance of the lacquerware collected by the Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg (1743–1828), while also reflecting on its broader relationship with the Japanese lacquer craft known as urushi. Objects made with urushi carry substantial meaning while being everyday commodities rather than rarities. In this way, Thunberg’s collection conveys a unique view of daily urban life and the urushi craft in Japan during a narrow time frame (1775–1776) and within a limited geographical area: Nagasaki, its vicinity, and along the feudal road between Kyoto and Tokyo. From the twenty-four examined objects in the Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm, hitherto significantly overlooked, four are analysed with microscopic, chemical, and physical methods. Thunberg’s view on Japanese material culture is excerpted from his travel diaries. A contemporary document about such artefacts and their immediate context is reviewed, partly assisted by the Miwo AI kuzushiji-script application developed by the Center for Open Data in the Humanities, Japan, which translates archaic cursive writing. Thunberg’s early life is briefly outlined while also referencing a handful of contemporary scholars of renown.

The results add physical and chemical data about everyday urushi wares from the mid-Edo period (1603–1868), made from sap blackened with soot and partly embellished with metal powders applied traditionally. The results also indicate the impression these artefacts are likely to have had on those people in Europe who came across them and provide information about how much Europeans might have known about lacquerware from East Asia at the end of the eighteenth century. Reading contemporary written documents parallel to studying the tangible artefacts themselves leads to a deeper understanding of tangible and intangible aspects.

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A White Gem from Kyoto

published Aug 7 2020a, Studies in Conservation, Taylor & Francis

Our first mutual publication on urushi-related topics is online. The article describes a white tempera-painted (mitsuda) box, in the custody of the Swedish Royal collection, which was misinterpretated for a long time. The investigation is part of a research project in which Uppsala University, Visby, and Meiji University, Tokyo, collaborate in a cross-disciplinary team. The article is published Open Access in Studies in Conservation, which means it can be read by anyone, anywhere. We would be delighted to have you as a reader and helping us to distribute it to anyone who may be interested. We would like to work with you to ensure it reaches as wide (and as appropriate) an audience as possible. As authors, we welcome any comments on its topic.

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A Colourful Past: Re-examination of a Swedish Rococo Set of Furniture with Focus on the Urushi Component

published Dec 11 2020b, Studies in Conservation, Taylor & Francis

Our second mutual publication on urushi-related topics is online. This time, the topic it is not only related but about actual urushi ware. Up to date, the furniture has been misinterpreted and the stories become mythical. We proudly announce that a number of inconsistencies are clarified by this scientific study. The article is published Open Access in Studies in Conservation, which means it can be read by anyone, anywhere. Again, we would be delighted to have you as a reader and helping us to distribute it to anyone who may be interested. We would like to work with you to ensure it reaches as wide (and as appropriate) an audience as possible. As authors, we welcome any comments on its topic.

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A Significant Japanese Coffer: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Examing Late Sixteenth -- Early SeventeenthCentury Export Urushi Ware

published March 24 2021, Studies in Conservation, Taylor & Francis

Our third paper on Japanese urushi ware in Swedish public collections presents new data on an extraordinary artefact with a long history. It can be linked with significant European events and historical persons, but most of all, it is a testimony of impressive craft skills and precious materials from distant countries. This four centuries-old coffer has two counterparts in Europe: one in a monastery in Spain and another in the Vatican Museum.

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Lost and Found: Documentary Evidence and Scientific Examination of a Mid-Eighteenth Century Japanese Urushi Box

published November 14 2022, Studies in Conservation, Taylor & Francis

Our forth paper on the same topic - urushi ware in Sweden. This example shows how a forensic approach can supply complementary data that otherwise would be difficult to obtain. The result which is cross-disciplinary in character, helps to bring clarity to an anonymous artefact which deserves attention for its manufacturing skills an aesthetically pleasing design.

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The Material Complexity of Three Seventeenth-Century Cabinets Exported from the Far East is about the components used to make the wood core, coating layers, and decorations. We used many standard methods for analyses. Conclusions suggest that typically exporting lacquerware from Japan in the 17-18 centuries was only sometimes straightforward. The fabrication required different kinds of saps and a wide range of materials, and a high level of skills to operate them.

The paper is open-access, and we would like your thoughts on its topic.

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Maria Brunskog