Restoration of the woods of the douiria of Mouassine

The Mouassine douiria (reception apartment) is an intact example of decorative art in Morocco. The 2016 restoration, carried out by craftsmen from Tafza, which notably made it possible to update the work of the plaster and its miraculously preserved original colors, revealed the colorful richness of this small room. A true "ode to color" according to Xavier Salmon, curator at the Louvre Museum who wrote the book "La Belle Oubliée" for this first restoration, the douiria presents a rich plaster decoration on the theme of garden: beds of leaves and almonds, stylized patterns of flowers and digits...

Updated the western raven during the 2016 restoration. The plaster of the douiria had been completely covered with a layer of plaster that hid the details and colors of the craftsmen's work.
Updating a marquee. The thick layer of plaster applied by the previous owners of the house was a way for them to modernize the room and bring it up to date.

The upper part of the room, in painted wood, hinted at the continuation of this floral decoration, but the state of conservation of the wood did not allow us to fully appreciate the original decoration.

In November 2020, the Music Museum decided to undertake a major restoration project for these painted woods. The museum thus entrusted Tariq EL AZZOUZI and Anass ESSANHAJI, graduates of the Academy of Traditional Arts of Casablanca in conservation-restoration of heritage specializing in wood, with this restoration.

On the left, Anass Essanhaji and on the right Tariq El Azzouzi on the restoration site.

During their studies, the two young restorers were able to carry out several projects including an end-of-study project: Tariq EL AZZOUZI thus carried out a study for the restoration of the minbar of the Taza mosque (to know more about the course of Tariq EL AZZOUZI) while Anass ESSANHAJI carried out a study on the woodwork of Dar Chorfas Al Maslouhiyine in Marrakech (to find out more about Anass ESSANHAJI's career) and they are also the authors of the restoration of Mubar's minbar in 2018. With their various experiences, they were able to carry out a study of the douiria and develop a precise protocol for the restoration of the woods.

Condition of woodwork before and after restoration. The blackened linen layer hints at the patterns and colors.
A series of videos documenting the construction process has been produced. All these videos are visible on Instagram.

The woodwork of Mouassine has a polychrome decoration that can be guessed under several layers of clogged linseed oil. The decor was first painted on the floor and then assembled using forged nails (we can thus date the ceiling from before the appearance of the industrial nail). The wood painted with pigment-based paint has been covered over time with several layers of linseed oil. Basically, this layer served as a protection for the paint, but as it aged, the linseed oil caused the woodwork to darken. The strong heat in Marrakech has softened the outer layer of linseed oil, the dust sticks and is trapped and the colors and patterns disappear under the dirt. It is therefore necessary to remove this layer to make the colors and patterns reappear. The risk is to also make the paint disappear by wanting to remove the linseed oil.

The restorers therefore carried out several tests with different solvents and surfactants to establish their final protocol. The cleaning is carried out using a mixture of acetone and ethanol which eliminates fouling without attacking the pictorial layer. To also reduce friction on the pictorial layer and save it even more, Tariq EL AZZOUZI and Anass ESSANHAJI also use a technique based on compresses.

Different zones are identifiable by the treatment of the decorations but also by their state of conservation. We thus find only painted areas and painted and engraved surfaces. On the ceiling, there are also blackened and very crumbly areas. These elements were based on thin metal plates (copper or tin) which suffered significant corrosion over time. At this stage, the conservators tried to preserve these friable plates before considering a different restoration. Some areas also show crystallization of linseed oil. These areas are then much more complex to treat: they require much more friction and the risk of attacking the paint layer is greater. The pigments are also more or less fragile: the yellow pigment may have a more fragile organic binder, sometimes completely disappeared in certain places, it is brilliant in others.

The restoration is thus an endless game of balance between removing linseed oil and fouling and maintaining the pictorial layer, while trying to give uniformity to all the colors of the woodwork.

Each new stage of the work is thus tested beforehand to ensure the best possible result, and the restorers proceed with great caution.

The updated decor thus extends the plaster decor and its floral theme: flowers, bouquets, interweaving of digitations, thus continue and complete the plaster decor. The patterns and color scheme are found in other buildings, which would tend to date the ceiling to the late 18th century to early 19th century.

The site can be visited throughout the restoration, which allows you to see the progress of the site and meet the restorers.