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Patrimonio Nacional and the Museo del Prado to collaborate on the study and restoration of The Crucifixion by Rogier van der Weyden Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Patrimonio Nacional and the Museo del Prado today signed a collaborative agreement for the technical study and restoration in the Museum’s studios of The Crucifixion by Rogier van der Weyden. This is one of the masterpieces from the outstanding collection of Flemish painting assembled by Philip II that is known from documents to have been kept in the Royal Monastery of El Escorial since 1574. Together with The Descent from the Cross by Van der Weyden, now in the Prado, it is the most important work by this master from Tournai to be seen in Spain. The project is part of the Prado’s restoration programme, which has been sponsored by Fundación Iberdrola since 2010.

Patrimonio Nacional and the Museo del Prado to collaborate on the study and restoration of The Crucifixion by Rogier van der Weyden

Together with Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden (Tournai, 1399/1400 – Brussels, 1464) was the most important painter active in the Low Countries in mid-15th century. The influence of his work is evident not only on painters of his own day but also into the next century. His masterful compositions, the elegant poses and proportions of his figures and the profoundly dramatic nature of their gestures and expressions are among the characteristics that have made him one of the great masters of world painting.

Van der Weyden probably painted The Crucifixion around 1460, four years before his death, for the Charterhouse at Scheut near Brussels, an institution with which he was closely associated. The painting was sold from there in 1555 according to documents in its archives but it is not known to whom. It is thought that it was Mary of Austria, Governor of the Low Countries and better known as Mary of Hungary, who acquired it before her departure for Spain in 1556, accompanied by her brother, the Emperor Charles V. It may, however, have been directly acquired by her nephew Philip II who was also in Brussels from August 1555. Whatever the case, the work remained in the Spanish royal collections from that period onwards.

The eventful history of this masterpiece at El Escorial (its various changes of location within the building, its forced removal to Madrid during the Napoleonic invasion etc) have affected the state of preservation of this exceptional oak panel made up of thirteen thin panels. This is a typical construction for 15th-century Flemish panels, although the large size of the painting makes its exceptional for the time.

The study and subsequent restoration of Van der Weyden’s Crucifixion will be undertaken by the Museo del Prado’s restoration team in collaboration with restorers from Patrimonio Nacional, to whom the Museum will be making available its technical resources and experience acquired through the restoration of other works on panel in recent decades, including The Descent from the Cross by the same artist, which was restored in 1993. The lengthy procedure envisaged will involve a detailed and complete study of the panel in order to decide on the most appropriate procedures for its conservation and restoration. The complexity of this undertaking will undoubtedly mark a new milestone for the two institutions and is an event of singular importance within the field of art history and conservation.

The agreement signed today by the two public institutions in question, who together care for most of the works formerly in the royal Spanish collections, indicates their high level of commitment to the preservation of artistic patrimony and the active collaboration that they have maintained in recent years. At the end of the two years that this project is expected to take and once its study and restoration are complete, the painting will be exhibited at the Prado for three months before it returns to El Escorial.