The Executive Committee of The European Fine Art Foundation has awarded a total grant of €50,000 to two extraordinary projects that both focus on early masterpieces by Francisco de Zurbarán (Fuente de Cantos 1598 – Madrid 1664). One application was submitted by the Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf for the restoration of Zurbarán’s Saint Francis of Assisi in Meditation, (c. 1630-1635) and the second by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford USA for the restoration of his St. Serapion (1628).
A rare opportunity presented itself to encourage the exchange of expertise between museums by selecting two extraordinary projects that both focus on early masterpieces by Zurbarán.
The current condition of both paintings is severely compromised, both structurally and aesthetically. Although they need specific individual treatments, both require extensive conservation and restoration; this includes the removal of previous poor restoration, old varnish and flaking areas as well as infilling paint losses and old abrasions to restore them to their former glory.
Zurbarán’s St Francis of Assisi in Meditation is part of the Museum Kunstpalast permanent collection and one of the most important baroque masterpieces in the museum’s Rubens Gallery. The painting also has a special significance in Germany, as it is one of only five authentic paintings by Zurbarán in German public collections.
The Museum Kunstpalast is planning a comprehensive exhibition on Zurbarán in autumn 2015, which makes the immediate conservation and restoration of this painting imperative. The restoration will be communicated to visitors during the exhibition, along with a film-length documentary on the artist.
Watch a video of the restoration of St Francis of Assisi in Meditation.
The Wadsworth Atheneum
St Serapion, a 1951 acquisition by the Wadsworth Atheneum, is a key work in the museum's collection of baroque paintings, one of the strongest repositories of seventeenth-century works in the United States. Painted in 1628 for the monastery of the Shod Mercedarians in Seville, it is considered one of Zurbarán’s masterpieces from his early period.
The restoration of the Wadsworth Atheneum’s St. Serapion will be a crucial stabilisation. This will increase the painting’s value, and place the work in a new light by allowing the viewer to more fully appreciate the artist’s original intent. The work on St Francis of Assisi in Meditation will help to create a more homogenous surface, improving its aesthetic appearance so it is better able to convey its powerful message once again.
Watch a video of the restoration of St. Serapion.
Once the restoration of St. Serapion is complete, it will be a centrepiece of the newly installed European collection at the Wadsworth Atheneum, opening in September 2015. The rehang will provide visitors with a fuller understanding of the history of art and culture as told through the museum’s renowned collections. Preserving these works and sharing information on the conservation process and materials are critical aspects of this project.