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Restored Chinese Vases Reunited on Public Display

CAMBRIDGE, UK.- Three monumental late 17th century Chinese vases, damaged last year at The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, are back on public display following the complex process of restoration. A specially designed case, overlooking the staircase where the vases had originally been displayed for almost sixty years, now houses the imposing lidded baluster jar - 80 cm in height and weighing approximately 45 kg - flanked by two slightly smaller porcelain vases of 'yan yan' shape. All three vases had been smashed into hundreds of pieces when a visitor collided with them in January 2006.

The restoration of the vases was undertaken by Suffolk-based ceramic conservator Penny Bendall and took six months to complete. Penny, who trained at West Dean College and holds a Royal Warrant, said, "The sheer size and weight of the vases proved a challenge at times during the conservation process but I am very pleased to have brought this extensive project to a successful conclusion. The emphasis on minimum intervention throughout has hopefully demonstrated that, in the majority of cases, conservation to exhibition standard can successfully be achieved without excessive retouching."

Fitzwilliam Museum Director Duncan Robinson said, "We are very pleased with the result of this major restoration project and delighted to see the Qing vases back on display in the Museum. The risk that sunlight and heat would eventually degrade the adhesive used in their conservation has prevented us from putting them back in the window recess where they were originally displayed, but the advantage of their new location is that visitors will be able to walk around them."

Cambridge law firm Hewitsons generously supported the restoration of the vases and Managing Partner John Dix was on hand as they were installed in their new case ready to go on show to the public. "The restoration of these vases is a remarkable achievement," he said. "It is a great pleasure for Hewitsons to have been associated with this project and we are delighted that visitors to the Fitzwilliam may now continue to enjoy these magnificent vases as they have done for many decades."

The redisplay of the Qing vases in Gallery 17 is accompanied by the launch of a new interactive feature on the Fitzwilliam Museum website, which traces the project to restore the vases and includes a time-lapse video of the reconstruction of one of them; visit

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