PRESERVATION AND CONSOLIDATION OF THE WALL PAINTINGS IN SIQ AL-BARID, BEIDHA (PHASES I - V)
Project start and end date: 2006 - 2010
Project Consultants: Courtauld Institute of Art
Funding provided by: HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein; US Ambassadorís Fund for Cultural Preservation; Gerda Henkel Foundation; Petra National Foundation; British Embassy in Amman; Ali Jabri Human Heritage Foundation; The Khalid Shoman Foundation; Mr. Z. al-Turki
The painted Biclinium (numbered 849) located 300 metres from the entrance of the Siq al-Barid in Petra, comprises a principal chamber and a small rear recess that together preserve the most important surviving examples of Nabataean wall painting. The most outstanding painting covers the vault and walls of the recess with an exquisite decoration of intertwining vine scrolls and flowers, inhabited by erotes, other figures, and a variety of identifiable birds. This unique in-situ example of Nabataean figurative painting has immense art-historical importance, reflecting a synthesis of HellenisticĖRoman cultural influences.
Over the centuries, environmental exposure has taken its toll, together with fire damage and soot blackening from earlier habitation by the local population. Both the painted and unpainted surfaces of the Biclinium have been further obscured by graffiti and endangered by damage and attempted theft. Concern over the ongoing deterioration and damage led the Petra National Trust (PNT) to launch a conservation programme in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, in 2006. The conservation of the painting (removal of the black grime and proper uncovering of the paintings) was conducted in 2010 by a team of specialists from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.
Over a period of four years, the Courtauld Institute of Art conservation experts Stephen Rickerby and Lisa Shekede were able to restore the paintings to life. The conservation effort was divided into five sequential phases, with primary focus on stabilization throughout each phase. Through ground-breaking, safe, and effective conservation techniques the cleaning of the Biclinium now means that the remarkable artistry of this extremely fragile and vulnerable painting can be fully appreciated for the first time in its recent history.
The preservation of this 2,000 year-old intricate and brightly-colored wall painting was unveiled on Wednesday, August 18th 2010, in a ceremony marking the conclusion of the final phase of the conservation effort. HRH Prince Raad Bin Zaid, Chairman of the Petra National Trust (PNT), Minister of Tourism S. Afanah, and Petra Development Region Tourism Authority Chief Commissioner N. Shraideh attended the unveiling of the paintings, all anxious to get firsthand glimpse of the true beauty of this Nabataean culture.
The success of this project could not have been achieved without the kind donations and support of our donors. PNT would like to especially thank the following donors for their generous contributions on the wall painting conservation effort:
Ali Jabri Human Heritage Foundation
British Embassy, Amman
Gerda Henkel Foundation
Mr. Z. al Turki
Petra National Foundation (USA)
Tourism Cares for Tomorrow (USA)
The Khalid Shoman Foundation
US Ambassadorís Fund for Cultural Preservation
HRH Princess Haya Bint Al-Hussein Office in Amman