Dürer’s Adam and Eve return to public display at the Prado following their painstaking and complex restoration

The Museum is once again displaying the magnificent pair of paintings of Adam and Eve (1507) by Albrecht Dürer, following two years of intensive restoration to their pictorial surfaces and supports. The work on the two panels has benefited from the participation of a team of international experts, jointly co-ordinated by the Prado and the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles. The latter institution funded the restoration of the delicate panels on which the two paintings are executed, leading to the development of an ingenious technical solution in order to stabilise them. To draw public attention to the complex process of restoration carried out on both panels, they are now on show in a space other than their usual gallery, with a special installation sponsored by Iberdrola as their first project within the collaborative agreement signed today with the Prado for sponsorship of the Museum’s restoration programme.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Following a lengthy and complex process of restoration of the panels of Adam and Eve, two masterpieces within the oeuvre of Albrecht Dürer, the greatest artist of the German Renaissance, the Museo del Prado is exhibiting the results of this restoration through a special presentation of both paintings in the centre of Room 49. For four months the panels will be shown apart from the other works by the artist in the collection, among which is his celebrated Self-portrait (1498). Adam and Eve are mounted on a metal structure specially designed to allow both the front and back of each work to be seen. In an adjoining gallery (Room 55b) the restoration of the two panels is explained in detail through several text and image panels that include images of reflectographs and x-rays of the works. There is also a video that records key moments during their restoration and explains the work undertaken on the paint surfaces and the supports.

Over the course of their history, the paint surfaces of the two panels have undergone successive restorations that accumulated, one on top of the other, and finally concealed Dürer’s original intentions and his exceptionally refined technical skills. These old restorations also affected the panels, particularly that of Adam, which had vertical cracks on the surface that produced distortions and bulging, in turn causing shadows and irregularities on the pictorial surface and thus negatively affecting the forms of Dürer’s composition. For these reasons, the decision was taken two years ago to move the paintings to the Museum’s restoration studio in order to restore them and recover the original enamelled surface of the paint layers, in addition to re-establishing the volumes, the sense of depth and the colour achieved by Dürer in the depiction of the figures.

The restoration of the paint surfaces was undertaken by Maite Dávila, a highly experienced paintings restorer at the Museum. The fragile state of the panels, particularly with regard to the problems of the Adam panel, required a complete process of restoration that has been made possible through the support of the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles, California. The collaboration of that institution in the restoration of the two panels is part of the “Panel Painting Initiative” project through which the Getty committed itself to funding the restoration of both panels. This commitment also involved the participation of George Bisacca of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, who is one of the leading international experts in the restoration of supports, together with that of José de la Fuente, restorer of supports at the Prado, who was in contact with Bisacca throughout the entire process.

In addition and as from today, the new involvement of Iberdrola Foundation as a “protector member” of the Museum’s restoration programme represents an important degree of support that will enable the Museum to continue undertaking as many projects of this importance as are considered necessary for the conservation of its collections, and to subsequently make them known to the public through special installations of the type designed for the Adam and Eve panels, made possible through the new participation of Iberdrola Foundation.

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