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The Museo del Prado is restoring six panels by Rubens from the “Triumph of the Eucharist” series Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Due to structural damage caused by earlier restorations, the Museo del Prado has decided to embark on the restoration of six oil sketches by Rubens from the “Triumph of the Eucharist” series. At some point in their history the panels were reduced in thickness in order to make them flat, which was common practice in the past. This old intervention has resulted in cracks, distortions and irregularities in the level of the pictorial surface. In addition, the panels themselves were boxed in, which prevents the wood from moving.

The Museo del Prado is restoring six panels by Rubens from the “Triumph of the Eucharist” series

George Bisacc and José de la Fuente restoring Abraham offering the Tithe to Melchizedek, Rubens

The Getty Foundation, Getty Conservation Institute, and J. Paul Getty Museum together launched the Panel Paintings Initiative in 2008. The initiative is a six-year effort to train and mentor the next generation of panel paintings conservators. Current leaders in the field also have committed themselves to aid in the training of up-and-coming conservators in the field. Understanding the pressing need for skilled conservators, the Prado will use the conservation of Rubens’ important panel paintings as a major opportunity for training conservators at various stages of their careers.

The first project to be undertaken by the Prado and the Getty took place in 2010 with the highly delicate restoration of Dürer’s Adam and Eve panels. George Bisacca of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, who is one of the world’s leading experts in the restoration of panels, and José de la Fuente, the Prado’s restorer of panels, carried out this work on Dürer’s celebrated paintings, assisted by a series of grant students from different institutions. The two experts will now be working together on the restoration of the six panels by Rubens and will once again make use of this significant project to train new specialists by inviting grant students and other more experienced restorers from museums around the world.

Six panels by Rubens

In 1626 the celebrated Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens completed six oil sketches from the series known as the “Triumph of the Eucharist”, which symbolises devotion to the Holy Sacrament of Communion. Painted on panel, they were commissioned by the Infanta Clara Eugenia during the time she was governor of the Southern Netherlands as models for tapestries for the convent of the Descalzas Reales in Madrid, where they still hang today. Although conceived as preliminary sketches for these tapestries, Rubens’ panels are of extremely high quality and reflect his fascinating working methods. In them, the artist revealed his delicate but powerful handling and his intensely expressive approach to the human form, in addition to his profound ability to interpret the works of classical antiquity and the Renaissance.

The six oil sketches are: Saint Clara with the Fathers and Doctors of the Church; Abraham offering the Tithe to Melchizedek; The Triumph of Catholic Truth; The Triumph of the Church; The Triumph of the Eucharist over Idolatry; and The Triumph of Divine Love. All have later pine wood additions on the back and at the lower edge, running along with length of the works. These additions to the supports have caused damage to the pictorial surface of the panels in the form of cracks, sunken areas, distortions and irregularities of level.

The Getty Foundation

The Getty Foundation supports institutions and individuals committed to the conservation and promotion of understanding of the visual arts on a local and worldwide scale. Through grants and strategic programmes, the Foundation, which is based in Los Angeles, reaffirms art history as a global discipline, increases access to collections, and encourages the practice of interdisciplinary curatorship and the drive to promote current and future leaders in the visual arts. The Foundation fulfils the philanthropic mission of the J. Paul Getty Fund, a cultural and philanthropic institution dedicated to the visual arts. More information at The Getty Foundation.

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