The Museo del Prado is restoring six panels by Rubens from the “Triumph of the Eucharist” series

George Bisacc and José de la Fuente restoring <em>Abraham offering the Tithe to Melchizedek</em>, Rubens

George Bisacc and José de la Fuente restoring Abraham offering the Tithe to Melchizedek, Rubens

    The Museo del Prado has embarked on the restoration of six panels from the so-called “Triumph of the Eucharist” series, commissioned from Rubens by Isabel Clara Eugenia as models for tapestries for the convent of the Descalzas Reales in Madrid. This was one of the most important commissions received by Rubens. Following the restoration of the delicate supports of Dürer’s paintings of Adam and Eve in 2010, which involved the application of an ingenious technical solution to stabilise them, the Getty Foundation, through its “Panel Paintings Initiative”, is once again funding a complex conservation effort. Involving the participation of international experts coordinated by the Prado and the Getty, this Rubens project falls within the Prado’s Restoration Programme sponsored by Fundación Iberdrola.

    Monday 09 July 2012

    Due to structural damage caused by earlier restorations, the Museo del Prado has decided to embark on the restoration of six oil sketches by Rubens from the “Triumph of the Eucharist” series. At some point in their history the panels were reduced in thickness in order to make them flat, which was common practice in the past. This old intervention has resulted in cracks, distortions and irregularities in the level of the pictorial surface. In addition, the panels themselves were boxed in, which prevents the wood from moving.

    The Getty Foundation, Getty Conservation Institute, and J. Paul Getty Museum together launched the Panel Paintings Initiative in 2008. The initiative is a six-year effort to train and mentor the next generation of panel paintings conservators. Current leaders in the field also have committed themselves to aid in the training of up-and-coming conservators in the field. Understanding the pressing need for skilled conservators, the Prado will use the conservation of Rubens’ important panel paintings as a major opportunity for training conservators at various stages of their careers.

    The first project to be undertaken by the Prado and the Getty took place in 2010 with the highly delicate restoration of Dürer’s Adam and Eve panels. George Bisacca of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, who is one of the world’s leading experts in the restoration of panels, and José de la Fuente, the Prado’s restorer of panels, carried out this work on Dürer’s celebrated paintings, assisted by a series of grant students from different institutions. The two experts will now be working together on the restoration of the six panels by Rubens and will once again make use of this significant project to train new specialists by inviting grant students and other more experienced restorers from museums around the world.

    Six panels by Rubens

    In 1626 the celebrated Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens completed six oil sketches from the series known as the “Triumph of the Eucharist”, which symbolises devotion to the Holy Sacrament of Communion. Painted on panel, they were commissioned by the Infanta Clara Eugenia during the time she was governor of the Southern Netherlands as models for tapestries for the convent of the Descalzas Reales in Madrid, where they still hang today. Although conceived as preliminary sketches for these tapestries, Rubens’ panels are of extremely high quality and reflect his fascinating working methods. In them, the artist revealed his delicate but powerful handling and his intensely expressive approach to the human form, in addition to his profound ability to interpret the works of classical antiquity and the Renaissance.

    The six oil sketches are: Saint Clara with the Fathers and Doctors of the Church; Abraham offering the Tithe to Melchizedek; The Triumph of Catholic Truth; The Triumph of the Church; The Triumph of the Eucharist over Idolatry; and The Triumph of Divine Love.

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