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Reframing the Prado Thursday, February 6, 2020

American Express Foundation sponsors American Friends of the Prado Museum making possible a new initiative to improve the Prado Museum’s permanent collection exhibition and incorporate new preventative conservation measures.

The Spinners by Velázquez, one of the masterpieces of European art, will be the first painting to benefit from the project. Its new frame will cover the historic additions to the canvas from view allowing the visitor to better understand the original composition as intended by the great master.

Reframing the Prado

Miguel Falomir, Director of the Museo Nacional del Prado; Christina Simmons, Executive Director American Friends of the Prado Museum; Tomás Fernández, CFO American Express Europe and Javier Portús, Chief Curator of Spanish Painting (up to 1700) at the Museo del Prado. Photo © Museo Nacional del Prado

The “Reframing the Prado” project aims to provide the optimum presentation of the Prado Museum’s permanent collection through improving framing or creating innovative solutions for particular cases, such as The Spinners. The new project, supported by American Friends of the Prado Museum thanks to the sponsorship of American Express Foundation, will begin with an innovative installation to bring the original composition by Velázquez back into view while incorporating technical advances for the best conservation of the work.

“The Spinners is a fascinating masterpiece with a complex reading which will greatly benefit from the new framing system developed by our team,” says Mr. Miguel Falomir, Director of the Museo Nacional del Prado. “We’d like to thank American Friends of the Prado Museum and American Express Foundation for their generosity in supporting our efforts to improve the exhibit conditions of the permanent collection.”

Juan Orti, Country Manager for American Express Spain, said, “It is an honor for us to collaborate on this innovative project, which allows the public to better understand `The Spinners ´ by Velázquez. American Express is committed to the economic development of the Spanish market and to the conservation of its cultural heritage. By supporting heritage, we are also supporting the experiential value this offers, adding to the continued effort to promote tourism in a sustainable way.”

“From American Friends of the Prado Museum, we thank American Express Foundation for its generous contribution and sensitivity to support this important exhibition project,” comments Ms. Christina Simmons, Executive Director de American Friends of the Prado Museum.

Historic additions affecting The Spinners by Velázquez

In the 18th century, the canvas was extended in its perimeter adding a wide band of new canvas onto the upper edge of the original composition (the archway and dormer window) and slimmer bands onto the right, left and lower edges. This type of operation was frequently performed in the Spanish royal collections, but in the case of The Spinners it detracts from the perception of the painting as conceived by Velázquez. Resulting in distancing the scene in front of the tapestry and converting its mythological content, considered key to understanding the work, to a genre scene.

The Prado Museum, aware of this effect yet conscience to preserve to the historical additions, reframed The Spinners in the past few years with a system that allowed only the Velázquez composition to be seen. However, the need to review the painting for conservation obliged to dismantle this earlier framing method.

Currently the painting is on view with the historic additions visible, while the Museum has been researching a new system that would also allow easy access to the entire canvas.

An innovative modular system to view the original Velázquez composition incorporates improved technical aspects for preservation

The new system consists of a thin, modular wall which will cover the later additions of the painting and frame the Velázquez composition. The system is specifically designed with an encompassing museographical approach, aesthetically integrating the work into the gallery, including technical advances for the optimum preservation and protection. The installation is undetectable to the viewer, providing the most natural experience between the visitor and Velázquez’s masterpiece.

This newly developed design brings together aesthetic criteria, preventative conservation incorporating elements which would protect the painting from adverse conditions and employing sustainable materials; it will serve as a reference for reference future museum installations.

The modular panel will substitute the wooden frame made in 1886 by Hermanos Marquina, S.A.