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Rogier van der Weyden (ca.1399-1464)

Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid 3/24/2015 - 6/28/2015

The Museo del Prado and Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado present the “Rogier van der Weyden” exhibition, which revolves around the completion of the restoration of the El EscorialCalvary, a project carried out in collaboration with Patrimonio Nacional and with the support of Fundación Iberdrola. The exhibition provides a unique and unlikely to be repeated opportunity to view the restored work alongside the PradoDescent from the Cross, the Miraflores Triptych, now in Berlin, and the Antwerp Altarpiece of the Seven Sacraments. These four masterpieces by Van der Weyden have been brought together for the first time in history together with other paintings by the Flemish master such as the Durán Madonna from the Prado’s collections.

Curators:
Dr. Lorne Campbell and José Juan Pérez Preciado, Museo Nacional del Prado

Access

Room C. Jerónimos Building

Supported by:
Fundación de Amigos del Museo del Prado
Fundación Iberdrola
In collaboration with:
Flanders State of the Art
Patrimonio Nacional

Multimedia

Exhibition

Rogier van der Weyden

Rogier van der Weyden
Descent from the Cross
Rogier van der Weyden
220 cm x 262 cm, ca. 1435
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Born in Tournai around 1399, Rogier died in Brussels in 1464. An official painter of Brussels, he also worked for the Duke and Duchess of Burgundy. According to his friend Cardinal Jouffroy, his paintings “adorned the courts of all the kings”. In 1445 John II of Castile gave the Miraflores charterhouse a triptych painted by him. The four huge allegories of Justice painted on panel for Brussels city hall that were his best-known works in his own day were destroyed in 1695. Other large paintings such as theDescent, the Durán Madonna and the Calvary were exported to Spain.

It will never be possible to provide a definite explanation of the full complexity of works such as the Descent, theMiraflores Triptych or the large Calvary, which greatly transcend the circumstances of everyday life, or others like the Triptych of the Seven Sacraments in which the figures, dressed in the fashion of the time, are depicted in the setting of an equally contemporary church. Above them is a cross so high that it almost touches the vault over the nave, and on it is an enormous Christ. None of the other figures of the triptych, very different in size, are portrayed in the same scale as the building.

Like his contemporary Jan van Eyck († 1441), Van der Weyden must have discovered as a young man that although he was capable of producing lifelike renderings of the natural world, he could do more than simply imitate immediate reality. So sensitive was his treatment of forms and lines that his compositions, based on geometric harmonies, were immediately striking and became engraved on the memory. He also knew how to handle colour and abstract forms in order to intensify the spectator’s emotional reaction. He could represent anything highly realistically, but when it suited him he ignored the logic of space and scale or blurred the boundaries between reality and sculpture. His works are so beautiful, ambiguous and fascinating that they compel us to return to them time and time again, and we always discover something new.

The restoration of Rogier van der Weyden’s Crucifixion

The restoration of Rogier van der Weyden’s Crucifixion
The Crucifixion
(From left to right: before the restoration, restoration process and after the restoration)
Rogier van der Weyden
Oil on canvas, ca. 1457-64
Patrimonio Nacional. Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

Rogier van der Weyden’s Crucifixion, from the Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial, is one of the painter’s most impressive and original works on account of the grandeur and expressiveness of its figures in an extremely simple composition. It is furthermore one of the very few works by the painter that can be authenticated by documents from the time the artist gave it to the charterhouse of Scheut in Brussels, its original location.

The work’s various locations and the different interventions it had undergone throughout more than 500 years had influenced its aesthetic appearance and the conservation of the support and paint layer.

The technical documentation work (dendrochronology, pigment analysis, X-radiography, infrared and ultraviolet reflectography), together with work on the support and picture surface of the Crucifixion has restored the painting to its original state, making it possible to confirm Van der Weyden’s authorship and to date it specifically to a period between 1455, the earliest possible year the panel could have been used, and 1464, the year of the painter’s death.

The recent intervention has restored the sensation of three-dimensionality of the figures, whose volume was distorted by a thick layer of grey repainting. The new X-ray image and infrared reflectography indicate that it was a very well thought out work, as no major changes were made to the composition, with an extremely carefully executed underdrawing.

Intervention on the support

For this imposing composition (3.24 x 1.94 m.) the painter used fourteen Baltic oak planks that were assembled horizontally.

The present intervention consisted chiefly in stabilising the panel to restore its balance and fit it with a secondary support to allow it to be handled without impairing its interpretation. This new frame, which was adapted not only to the curvature of the work but also to its intrinsic deformities, was joined to the original structure with springs that permit natural movements of the wood both in-plane and out-of-plane ad well as expansion, contraction and warping in order to ensure its conservation.

Intervention on the paint layer

Following the preliminary study of the initial state of the work and a first cleaning, an in-depth intervention was carried out to eliminate the additions that were distorting the true quality of Van der Weyden’s painting and to fill in the losses with traditional gesso and later retouch them.

Artworks

1

Miraflores Triptych

Rogier van der Weyden

Oil on oak panel

Before 1445

Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

2

Triptych of The Seven Sacraments

Rogier van der Weyden

Oil on oak panel

c. 1450

Antwerpen, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten

3

Drawings for the tomb of Alfonso de Velasco and for the chapel of Saint Anne in the basilica of the Real Monasterio de Guadalupe

Egas Cueman

Pen and ink on paper

c. 1460-67

Real Monasterio de Santa María de Guadalupe

4

Crucifixion, right wing of an altarpiece dedicated to Our Lady in Laredo (Cantabria)

Escultores de Bruselas, posiblemente según diseños de Rogier van der Weyden y taller

Walnut

c. 1430-40

Laredo, Santa María de la Asunción de Laredo. Diócesis de Santander

5

Portrait of a Stout Man

Robert Campin

Oil on oak panel

c. 1435

Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

6

The Crucifixion

Rogier van der Weyden

Oil on oak panel

c. 1457-64

Patrimonio Nacional, Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo del Escorial

10

Pietá

Taller de Rogier van der Weyden

Oil on oak panel

c. 1440-50

Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

13

Fray Lope de Barrientos

Egas Cueman

Polychromed and gilded gypsum alabaster

c. 1447-54

Medina del Campo, Fundación Museo de las Ferias. Obra depositada por la Fundación Simón Ruiz

14

Livy, History of Rome (Ab urbe condita), Italian translation of the Third Decade, books 21-30, open at fol. 3.

Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (iluminador)

Tempera on velum

Florencia 1476

Valencia, Biblioteca Històrica. Universitat de València

15

Episodes from the Story of Jephthah

Manufactura bruselense, según Rogier Van der Weyden

Wool and silk

c. 1450-60

Zaragoza, Museo de Tapices de la Seo- Cabildo Metropolitano de Zaragoza

16

Isabella of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy

Taller de Rogier van der Weyden

Oil on oak panel

c. 1450

Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum

17

Christ appearing to the Virgin

Juan de Flandes

Oil on oak panel

c. 1496-99/ 1500

Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Bequest of Michael Dreicer, 1921

18

Saint Francis(?) holding a Crucifix

Nuno Gonçalves

Oil on oak panel

c. 1470

Lisbon, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga

19

Copy after a lost painting then in the monastery at Batalha

Domingos António de Sequeira

Pencil on paper. From an album of drawings, fol. 46

1808

Lisbon, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga

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