Within the context of the re-display of the Museo del Prado's Permanent Collection and more specifically of the works by Velázquez, it was decided to restore Philip III on Horseback and Margaret of Austria on Horseback. The two canvases were painted by Velázquez with studio assistance for the Hall of Realms [Salón de Reinos] in the Buen Retiro Palace. They were part of a series that also included the equestrian portraits of Philip IV, Isabel de Borbón and Baltasar Carlos. Restoration was undertaken as the original pictorial values of the paintings had significantly altered for two principal reasons:
Bearing in mind all the above, the Museum's restorers decided that a 'restoration' of both paintings not only implied cleaning them but also returning them to their original perceptual conditions as far as was possible, a decision that would mean covering over the later additions.
Of the three possibilities in this respect (retaining the additional strips and creating a display that concealed them from view, folding them over the stretcher so that they were hidden at the back of the painting, and removing them), it was decided that the third option was the least harmful in the short, medium and long term as the way that the strips had been joined to the original painting allowed for a very precise type of intervention.
This intervention and the general restoration of the paintings were undertaken by Rocío Dávila. The result can be seen in Room XII of the Museum where Philip III and Margarita of Austria are now on display with the original values that had been partly lost over two hundred and fifty years restored to them. While it was previously difficult to appreciate the merit of these works within the series (other than their iconographic importance), this is now absolutely clear and a comparison, for example, between the equestrian portrait of Philip IV and that of his father reveals two different approaches to depicting royal majesty: the calm remoteness of the former, conveyed through the monarch's impassive expression and profile presentation, and the dynamism of the latter, transmitted through the foreshortening of the horse and the luminous sky against which the horse and rider are set. All those who remember these works in their former location (Room XVI) will appreciate that the results and consequences of the present restoration extend beyond the works in question and positively affect our comprehension of the entire group.