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Preview: Restoration of "The Countess of Chinchón", by Francisco de Goya (1800)

The Countess of Chinchón is an oil painting on canvas and is in an exceptionally good state of preservation. Its most recent restoration began in March 2020 but little is known about previous restorations.

In 1988 and 1996 small areas of the paint surface were consolidated in the Museum’s restoration studio prior to the work going on display at the Prado. Following its acquisition by the Museum in 2000, a technical carried out on the work revealed that it had been painted on another canvas already used by Goya, which X-radiography clearly showed to also be painted with a standing portrait of Godoy and another, less visible one underneath of a young knight with the cross of the Order of Malta on his breast. Both images had been covered over by a layer of pinkish-beige pigment that was used as the preparation for the final portrait of the Countess of Chinchón.

The recent restoration by the restorer Elisa Mora has included strengthening the corners of the original canvas, which is unlined, while various patches of cloth applied over small tears in the past have been replaced by linen threads. An important aspect of the procedure was consolidating the pictorial layer and the preparation due to the presence of craquelure which was posed a risk in terms of paint loss. The final phase consisted of removing the oxidised varnish and dirt that had accumulated on the painting’s surface.

The process of cleaning has been crucial for allowing a new appreciation of Goya’s masterly brushstrokes, which had been obscured by a dark, yellowish film that prevented the viewer from visually grasping the depth and sense of space around the figure. Now, the transparency of the new varnish makes it possible to distinguish the green tones of the ears of corn in the sitter’s hair, the crisp texture of her muslin dress and its embroidered details, and the subtle nuances of the greys and whites. The young countess’s character is perfectly conveyed by the pearly flesh tones, the pink of her cheeks and her fine, curly hair that seems to move before her eyes, with their clear, rapt gaze.