Saint Jerome writing (after its restoration), José de Ribera. Oil on canvas, 131,5 x 98 cm. XVII Century. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
MADRID.- Thanks to the new, expanded degree of Fundación Iberdrola’s commitment to the Museo del Prado, which began in 2010 when it became the Protector Member of the restoration programme, the Museum will be updating the entire lighting system in the galleries of the permanent collection. Coinciding with the signing of this new agreement, the Museum has presented the painting Saint Jerome writing, recently attributed to Ribera, which will be seen for the first time after its restoration, once again undertaken with the support of Fundación Iberdrola.
José Pedro Pérez Llorca, President of the Royal Board of Trustees of the Museum, Manuel Marín González, President of Fundación Iberdrola, and Miguel Zugaza Miranda, Director of the Museo del Prado, today provided information on the new collaborative agreement that will allow for better presentation and conservation of the Prado’s collections through the complete replacement of the present system of lighting in its galleries with a new one that uses LED technology. The presentation took place in Room 56A, in front of works by Bosch and Bruegel the Elder, among others, a gallery that now has a LED lighting system as a pilot trial. The change to this new lighting system will allow the Museum to be much more efficient on energy saving by using sustainable systems. After the signing of the agreement, the Museum presented Saint Jerome writing, a recently restored work that will be on display from today with an attribution to Ribera for the first time. In addition, two important restoration projects were singled out: that of The Triumph of Saint Ermengildo by Herrera the Younger, and of María Luisa de Parma wearing a panniered Dress by Goya. These two projects emphasise the importance of Fundación Iberdrola’s support for the fundamental work of restoration carried out at the Museum. In addition, the next restoration project, that of El Greco’s The Disrobing of Christ from Toledo cathedral, was announced.
The addition of Fundación Iberdrola as a “Protector Member” of the Prado’s restoration programme in November 2010 marked a fundamental agreement, which ensured that the Prado could continue to undertake the restoration projects necessary for the appropriate conservation of its collections. These projects, which have involved removing oxidized varnishes and re-establishing the correct harmony of the works’ tonal relations in order to bring back the sense of light in them, have ensured a correct visual reading of the paintings in question. This visual reading will now be even easier due to a lighting system based on LED technology that will gradually be installed in the galleries of the permanent collection over the next four years thanks to this new collaborative agreement signed with Fundación Iberdrola. As a result, the Fundación now has the highest status, that of Benefactor, among the categories of Corporate Friends of the Museum.
Masterpieces in the Prado in a new light
The presentation of the permanent collection not only reflects a new discourse in its display, which has created an ordered route based on the combination of a chronological ordering and by schools, but also the implementation of a series of initiatives that have aimed to ensure optimum display conditions and preservation of the works.
Falling within this initiative is the project to exhibit the masterpieces in the Prado with new lighting, sponsored by Fundación Iberdrola. This will consist of installing a new lighting system in the galleries of the permanent collection using LED technology in order to improve display conditions of the works and enable them to be more easily seen and interpreted. In addition, it will allow the Museum to become more energy efficient through a strategy of energy saving and environmental management.
This procedure will offer a solution to the differing requirements of the Museum’s rooms and works of art. It will intensify the colours and ensure the correct sensation of volume, generating an effect of depth without distorting the composition, and making the visual experience more distinct and crisp. Finally, it will help to get rid of UV radiation and infra-red, while reducing CO2 levels and lowering maintenance costs.
The project will be carried out over twelve stages and will continue until May 2017. It will begin in Rooms 49, 50, 52 (the Várez Fisa gallery), 52B, 52C, 55B, 56B and 57B, located on the ground floor of the Villanueva Building. It will end in the rooms that flank the northern part Central Gallery where works by El Greco, Ribera and Velázquez are on display. Priority will be given to rooms in which the collection has been re-organised and re-hung as part of the Re-organisation of the Collection Project, and to the division of the Villanueva building in relation to with the building’s electricity circuits and systems.
Detail of Saint Jerome writing (after its restoration), José de Ribera. Oil on canvas, 131,5 x 98 cm. XVII Century. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado.
Saint Jerome writing, an early work by Ribera
Formerly in the collection of Isabella Farnese, this work has been on deposit since 1940 at the Casa-Museo Colón in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. That loan agreement was cancelled last year in order for the work to be studied and restored.
Saint Jerome writing was in the Casa-Museo Colón in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with an attribution to the Valencian painter Esteban March. The expert on Caravaggism, Gianni Papi, has, however, recently identified and published it as an early work by José de Ribera, basing his attribution on the work’s close stylistic and compositional similarities with various works painted by Ribera around 1615, including some of the paintings in his series on “The Senses”. The present painting shares their descriptive preciseness and markedly tenebrist use of light, the origins of which lie in Ribera’s highly personal interpretation of Caravaggio’s models. In the light of the painting’s importance, it has been brought to the Prado for restoration and display in the galleries devoted to naturalism and Ribera. To replace the painting, the Casa-Museo Colón has received the long-term deposit of Saint Andrew, also by Ribera. From the viewpoint of the Prado’s collections, this is an important addition, given that together with his painting of The Raising of Lazarus, it will allow the public to gain an idea of the originality and high quality of Ribera’s work during his early years, which is a unique period in his career and one not represented in the Prado’s collection until around twelve years ago.
The painting arrived at the Museum with problems around its edges due to damp and an old attack of woodworm. The pictorial surface was generally well preserved but had an abnormal appearance due to the oxidization of the varnishes, surface irregularities caused by an old lining and an earlier selective cleaning that had concentrated on some zones to the detriment of others. During the restoration process the edges have been consolidated and straightened, dirt and oxidized varnishes have been removed, some small losses have been replaced and the painting has been cleaned. The result is the recovery of numerous spatial planes and as a consequence, a sense of volume in the saint’s figure.
Forthcoming restoration, The Disrobing of Christ by El Greco at the Museum
Together with its extremely active schedule of restoring works from its own collection, on exceptional occasions the Museo del Prado also restores major works that are entrusted to it due to the experience and prestige of its restorers. This is the case with The Disrobing of Christ by El Greco, which will soon be arriving at the Museum from Toledo cathedral for technical study and restoration.
The restoration of the painting will be undertaken in the Prado’s studios on the request of the cathedral Chapter and in consequence of an agreement reached with the Chapter and with the Fundación El Greco 2014, which will be responsible for the insurance and transport of the work, while Fundación Iberdrola will sponsor its restoration as part of its ongoing support for the Museum’s restoration programme. As is habitually the case, work will start with X-radiographic, infra-red and ultraviolet studies of the painting in order to ensure correct procedures are carried out on it. The picture surface will then be cleaned and oxidized varnished removed, while the paint surface will be consolidated. The restoration per se will be undertaken by Rafael Alonso, an experienced restorer at the Prado and an expert in the work of El Greco. Once completed and by express desire of the parties involved, the painting will be exhibited for three weeks at the Museum before it returns to Toledo cathedral in early 2014, the year that marks the 400th anniversary of the artist’s death.
Other recent restoration projects
Francisco Herrera the Younger (Spanish; 1627–1685), The Triumph of Saint Ermengild. Oil on canvas, 1654. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, Spain
The Triumph of Saint Ermengild by Herrera the Younger is one of the key works in the history of Spanish Golden Age painting. Executed in 1654 for the high altar of the church of the Barefoot Carmelite monks in Madrid (now the parish church of San José), it marks the emergence of a new and fully Baroque dynamism and use of colour in Spanish painting that would have a profound influence on the work of artists in Madrid and Seville in the second half of the century. As such, it is one of the most influential paintings within the history of Spanish art.
The Triumph of Saint Ermengild was one of the first paintings acquired for the Museo del Prado, entering its collection in 1832. Its overall state of conservation is good but over time the varnishes had oxidised while they were also covered over a layer of dust and incrusted glue located between the impasto. The result was a general darkening of the work and a loss of its spatial planes, which notably affected its visual reading, conceived by the artist as a virtuoso display of light, colour and space. Restoration has not only focused on repairing and preventing structural damage but also on reinstating the work’s visual legibility.
Due to the high quality of the materials and the outstanding technical skill of the artist, the results of the restoration are fully evident: the luminous colours, play of impastoed brushstrokes alternating with transparent layers, the volumes, perspective, and ethereal appearance of the work, which almost suggests mural painting, are now much more visible and comprehensible.
María Luisa de Parma wearing a panniered Dress by Goya is one of the artist’s most highly thought out and technically complex royal portraits. Painted in December 1789, immediately after the new monarchs’ accession, it presents the Queen in the French style, wearing a large, hooped skirt and a spectacular hat that entirely covers her head with drapery and feathers.
The painting still has all its original impasto on the pictorial surface, thus retaining its sense of relief, through which Goya achieved a subtle distribution of light. With the cleaning of the thick layer of yellowed varnishes that covered the surface, the work has regained the beauty of its colouring and its tonal gradations, evident in the textiles and in the delicacy of the flesh tones. In this work Goya demonstrates all his powers of representing the surface qualities of objects such as silk, jewels and gold in one of his most modern works in terms of the variety and abstract quality of the brushstrokes. In addition to recovering the work’s original light and colour, this recent restoration has once again demonstrated the artist’s technical virtuosity and the methods he employed in the creation of his works.
María Luisa de Parma wearing a panniered Dress is a technically rich and complex work and a masterly study of light. The paint almost entirely the reddish ground of the canvas, except in certain areas where the artist used it to model the outlines such as the arms. The figure is lit with varying degrees of intensity from a powerful source of light located beyond the upper left corner.