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The Museo del Prado is presenting one of the most important new discoveries of Early French Painting Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Shown to the public for the first time, the Museo del Prado is presenting The Agony in the Garden with the Donor Louis I d’Orléans (1405-1407/1408), a previously unpublished work acquired by the Museum in 2012. Following a lengthy process of restoration it will now be placed on display in the permanent galleries and represents a major contribution to the field of Early French Painting. The aesthetic and pictorial merit of the painting, recently restored with the sponsorship of Fundación Iberdrola, combined with the rarity of works from this school, make this panel a unique example of enormous historical importance given that it is the only known panel painting to depict Louis d’Orléans.

With a possible attribution to Colart de Laon, Louis’ painter and valet de chambre, the panel will be presented in a special display until 28 April in Room 58A, alongside X-radiograph and Infra-red reflectograph images of it and a video that shows the different stages of its restoration. 

The Museo del Prado is presenting one of the most important new discoveries of Early French Painting

From left to right: Gabriele Finaldi, Associate Director of Curatorship and Research at the Museo del Prado; Rafael Landín, Director of Iberdrola Fondation; Pilar Silva, Head of the Department of Spanish Painting until 1500 and Flemish and Northern School Paintings; Antonia López de Asiain, Museo del Prado restorer; José Pedro Pérez-Llorca, President of the Museum’s Royal Board of Trustees and; Miguel Zugaza, Director of the Museo del Prado.

From today, the Museo del Prado will be offering visitors the chance to see the previously unknown panel painting of The Agony in the Garden with the Donor Louis I d’Orléans (1405-1407/8), on display in Room 58A of the Villanueva Building. This is one of the most important discoveries in many years within the field of Early French Painting. Acquired by the Museum’s Royal Board of Trustees in 2012, the painting will enrich the Prado’s collection of 15th-century painting due to the fact that very few French paintings survive from this period and almost none are of the quality and historical importance of this example.

The value of the materials used in its creation – Baltic oak for the panel and a large amount of lapis lazuli – the quality of the execution, its links with court circles and the interest in spatial construction make this Agony in the Garden a masterpiece of French painting of the period.

The first technical analyses (X-radiography and Infra-red reflectography) carried out by the Museum’s Technical Documentation Department revealed that beneath an area of overpainting covering the lower left half of the painting was the figure of a kneeling donor protected by Saint Agnes. The nettle leaves on his sleeves allowed this figure to be identified as Louis d’Orléans, given that nettles were one of his emblems. The fact that this is the only panel surviving painting to depict the Duke of Orléans, who was Regent of France due to the madness of his brother Charles VI, makes it as important for the history of France as it is for the history of art

Following these technical analyses, the Museum proceeded to restore the panel in order to remove the overpainting that covered the figure of the donor and to clean the work. This project was undertaken by María Antonia López de Asiain as part of the Museum’s Restoration Programme sponsored by Fundación Iberdrola. As a result, the painting has regained its original chromatic range and remarkable quality.

The identification of the donor has also allowed for the suggestion that the panel was painted by Colart de Laon (documented 1377-1411) who was painter and valet de chambre to Louis d’Orléans from 1391 until the Duke’s death in 1407 then maintained this position in the service of Louis’ son, Charles d’Orléans. Although his paintings are now lost, documentary research confirms Colart de Laon as one of the most important painters working in early 15th-century France and the creator of numerous works for the 1st Duke of Orléans.

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