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LACMA Uncovers the Truth and Beauty of This Bolivian Pietà With Restoration

The TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund supported the restoration of the first Bolivian painting to enter LACMA’s collection

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the largest museum in the western United States with its collection of 146,000 objects encompassing 6,000 years of artistic expression across the globe. Pietà (circa 1720), by the Bolivian artist Melchor Pérez Holguín (circa 1660-circa 1732), is the first painting from Bolivia to enter LACMA’s collection. When acquired in 2019, the painting was hidden by considerable layers of yellowed varnish and grime as well as discolored restorations. “It was like it was a living painting, something that was cared for over centuries,” says Joseph Fronek, senior conservator and head of paintings conservation at LACMA. With the support of the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund, the painting was scientifically analyzed and carefully restored to get closer to Holguín’s original intentions and artistic choices, revealing forms and colors that had once been obscured.

Fronek shares his vision on restoration and the process of restoring Holguín's Pietà in the latest video from TEFAF Stories. The painting will make its debut in LACMA’s exhibition Archive of the World: Art and Imagination in Spanish America, 1500-1800; Highlights from LACMA’s Collection, on June 12, 2022, organized by Ilona Katzew, curator of Latin American Art.

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Melchor Pérez Holguín, Pietà, circa 1720, before and after restoration. Oil on canvas. 153 x 121 cm (60.3 x 47.6 in.). © Museum Associates/LACMA.
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