TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund
For the silver jubilee of the fair in 2012 the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund was created out of the desire to give something back to the great number of museums whose representatives regularly visit our fair. It aims to make a contribution to the conservation of objects that are in those museums' collections and to support the sharing of knowledge about conservation, not only with other museums, but also with the general public.
A maximum of €50,000 will be given by TEFAF every year towards one or two museum projects to restore works of art. The decision on who should receive the award and whether it should go to a single restoration plan or be split between two museums will be made by a jury of independent experts. Museums applying for this funding must have visited TEFAF in the year of the application, the work of art must be on view to the public for at least two years after the restoration is completed.
This year’s application deadline has now passed and we have received over forty applications. The winners will be announced in October.
The 2015 grants
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 put forward 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).
The decision is made by an independent panel of experts, this year comprising Prof. Dr Henk van Os, Dr Kenson Kwok, Rachel Kaminsky and David Bull. The panel was particularly impressed by the quality and diversity of the fine art applications this year. A rare opportunity presented itself to stimulate 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 the paintings need specific individual treatment, 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 their former glory.
Zurbarán’s Saint Francis of Assisi in Meditation is part of the Museum Kunstpalast permanent collection and is 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, including with a film-length documentary on the artist.
The Wadsworth Atheneum
St Serapion, a 1951 acquisition by the Wadsworth Atheneum’s, 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. It will not only increase the painting’s value, but also place the work in a new light by allowing the viewer to more fully appreciate the artist’s original intent. The work on Saint 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.
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 rehanging 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 is a critical part of this project.
The 2014 grants
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities)
The Egyptian Coffin Project focuses on several coffins and mummy boards currently in the collection of the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden. The three coffin sets and one inner sarcophagus all date from the 21st dynasty (c. 1069-945 BC) and were discovered in 1891 at Bab el-Gasus, near the Valley of the Kings and modern day Luxor, and have been in the collection of the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden since 1893. The beautiful and highly decorative coffins are favourites with the visiting public, but are not currently in good enough condition to be on permanent display.
An extensive research project into the coffins of Bab el-Gasus is on-going by the Vatican Museum, the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden and the Louvre, who are collaborating on the project to gather vital historical knowledge and further the research into the best methods of conservation and restoration. Using state of the art modern techniques such as Infra-Red reflectography and Infra-Red Spectroscopy, internationally renowned Egyptologists and conservators will bring alive the work of craftsmen who lived more than two millennia ago, and the results will be shared within an international network of researchers, conservators and curators.
An exhibition, a scientific publication at a later date and collaboration with two internationally renowned institutions make this a project of global significance. For TEFAF, sponsoring this project is a unique opportunity to help save these extraordinarily important 2500 year old objects. TEFAF visitors and the general public will be able to follow the research and conservation process closely through on-going digital documentation, photographs and films.
The Wallace Collection
Joshua Reynolds’s (1723- 1792) portrait Miss Nelly O’Brien (c.1762-64) is one of the Wallace Collection’s best-loved works of art and visitors connect instantly with the painting’s intimacy and candour. The charming painting drew much attention at the time of its creation; the narrative appeal of a ‘before and after’ transformation is irresistible. The personal story of Nelly herself and her fame within Georgian society continues to fascinate visitors to the Wallace Collection to this day.
The paiting is one of a group of twelve paintings by Reynolds in the Wallace Collection, recognised as one of the most significant collections of Reynolds’s work in the world. Many of this group have recently been conserved and Miss Nelly O’Brien is in need of the same treatment. The painting has been untouched for over 150 years, and in its present state with several thick layers of discoloured varnish obscuring its beauty, making it difficult for visitors to fully appreciate and enjoy the work. Conservation of the painting will serve two main purposes: the original, luminous beauty of the work will once again be revealed; and the conservation process will bring to light new information about Reynolds’s techniques and processes.
Several of the rooms at the Wallace Collection have recently been refurbished, and a grand reopening is planned in Summer 2014. With modern lighting and freshly woven silks hanging on the walls, the condition of the paintings is thrown into stark relief. Miss Nelly O’Brien will be an outstanding example of the museum’s on-going programme of conservation.
In this way, the project is an ideal opportunity to benefit two different audiences: the visitor as well as the academic. The museum envisages making the painting a key feature of their ‘highlights tours’, which introduce visitors to the treasures of the Collection. This will be an ideal opportunity to explain the technical aspects of the conservation work and will really enrich the visitor’s appreciation of the painting.
The 2013 grants
The Worcester Art Museum
The Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts is to restore a pair of portraits by the 18th century British artist William Hogarth. The pendant portraits of William and Elizabeth James, painted by Hogarth in 1744, were acquired by the museum more than a century ago but have never been comprehensively treated or technically evaluated and will benefit greatly from a conservation project. The work will enable the Worcester Art Museum to feature them prominently in Hogarth and the English Character, an exhibition planned for 2016, and ultimately to return these cornerstone works to its permanent galleries. The restoration will allow those viewing them to experience the full impact of the paintings as exquisite works of art without any concerns about their condition. The newly conserved pictures will reveal more authentic palettes and broader tonal ranges that, when reunited with their newly conserved frames, will enable viewers to have the pleasing experience intended by Hogarth.
William Hogarth (1697-1764) was one of the masters of British painting. Although best known for his biting satires of society that were popularised in engravings, he was also a skilled portraitist. In these paintings he captured the confidence of William James, a country squire from the English county of Kent, and his wife Elizabeth, both proud of their fashionable London clothes.
The Ashmolean Museum
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford is to carry out a conservation project on two candelabra by the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778). The intricately carved candelabra are some of the finest examples of neo-classical sculpture in the United Kingdom. They form a key element of the collections displayed in the Ashmolean's impressive Randolph Sculpture Gallery and are of international significance. They were purchased from Piranesi by Sir Roger Newdigate, who made two Grand Tours in 1739-40 and 1774-75. The candelabra were shipped in component form from Italy to Oxford with instructions for their re-assembly provided by Piranesi. The candelabra have become structurally unsound because the plaster bonding in the joints between each vertical section has failed during the 100 years since they were last restored. Until they were re-plinthed on pallets in 1991, these vulnerable objects were traditionally moved by masons dragging them across the floor, using winches, rather than lifting them. Although they are now mounted on pallets, disguised as plinths, moving them still puts them at risk as they comprise many loose components. For that reason the museum has developed this project to dismantle, conserve and structurally stabilize these remarkable objects.
The 2012 grants
The first grants were awarded jointly to the Denver Art Museum and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Video presentations of their projects were shown at TEFAF 2012.
The Denver Art Museum received €26,000 towards restoration work on Venice: The Molo from the Bacino di S. Marco painted by Canaletto c1736. The panel which made the decision says: "The main reasons that the panel chose the Denver Art Museum's project were the indisputable authenticity of the Canaletto and the innovative way that art lovers worldwide will be able to follow this project."
The Rijksmuseum received €22,000 towards work on a group of ten bronze memorial statuettes from the tomb of Isabella of Bourbon which date from 1476. The panel says: "The reasons for our decision were the urgency of of the conservation and the prominent place that the group of objects will have in the museum once it reopens in 2013. Many people from all over the world will be able to enjoy them."