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Nero and Seneca by Eduardo Barrón “converse” in the Prado between the sculptures that the author catalogued and restored Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nero and Seneca by Eduardo Barrón “converse” in the Prado between the sculptures that the author catalogued and restored.

Nero and Seneca by Eduardo Barrón “converse” in the Prado between the sculptures that the author catalogued and restored

Neron and Seneca (after the restoration process). Eduardo Barrón, cast in a mould, plaster 135 x 260 x 148 cm. 1904. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Starting today and until next Autumn, the visitors of the Prado will be able to contemplate the sculptural group Nero and Seneca (Eduardo Barrón, 1904) in room 74 and admire the result of the study and restoration process undertaken on the piece by the restoration department in coordination with the sculpture department of the Museum.

Eduardo Barrón’s plaster and partly polychromed sculptural group of Nero and Seneca won the gold medal at the National Fine Arts Exhibition in 1904. The artist was also the author of the first catalogue raisonné of the Museo del Prado’s sculpture collection and the Museum’s curator and restorer of sculpture until his early death in 1911. Together with the particularly fragile nature of the plaster of which it is made, this meant that various fragments were missing and that it had generally deteriorated. As a result, its recent restoration at the Museum was a particularly complex operation.

Eduardo Barrón (Moraleja del Vino, Zamora, 1858 – Madrid, 1911) In addition to being one of the leading sculptors of the day, Barrón had been Curator of the Sculpture Department at the Prado since 1892, also becoming its Restorer in 1895. He thus wrote the first catalogue of the Museum’s sculpture collection, entitled Catalogue of the Sculpture (1908), which provided information on the Museum’s sculptures up to the 18th century, given that those from the 19th and 20th centuries had passed to the recently created Museum of Modern Art (MAM) in 1896.

The group depicts Seneca instructing Nero, to whom he was tutor. Barrón emphasises the two figures’ different temperaments and hints at the unjust end of the Cordoban philosopher Seneca: accused of treason, the Emperor obliged him to commit suicide. That event is depicted in other works in the Museum such as The Death of Seneca (link to Website) by the studio of Rubens, and the painting entitled Seneca in the Bath, having opened his Veins, while his grief-stricken Friends swear their Hatred of Nero who decreed their Master’s Death (link to Website) by Manuel Domínguez Sánchez.

Displayed for the first time next to this newly restored sculpture is a little-known, smaller version of it, made by Barrón and given by him to the politician Antonio Maura in thanks for his help in ensuring the publication of the catalogue of sculptures in the Prado. This smaller version, on temporary deposit from the Fundación Antonio Maura (inv. no. 242), has survived completely unrestored in almost perfect condition. It reveals the original polychromy and the complexity, remarkable use of detail and technical mastery that characterise the making of this work.

All sculptures awarded prizes at the National Exhibitions passed to the Museum where State funding allowed them to enter the permanent collection. This did not happen with the present work, however, which makes the survival of this exceptionally large, original model in polychrome plaster particularly important. It allows for an appreciation of Barrón’s style, exquisite handling and exceptional technical mastery, while the highly detailed classical idiom that he deploys reveals his training in Rome. This work was on deposit for many years in the vestibule of Cordoba Town Hall.

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