Curator: Mireia Mestre, head of the MNAC's Department of Restoration and Preventive Conservation
Surprise, discovery, revelation, confirmation or disappointment are some of the emotions and experiences specialists are subject to when they venture into the scientific and technical study of works of art. In the course of its history, the MNAC has added to the understanding of the works in its collections and other related works, with results that are sometimes frustrating, often curious and also, from time to time, spectacular. The public, however, does not usually get the chance to see the results of this research, which is shared amongst keepers of collections, art historians, conservators, restorers and scientists.
Using a display of works from different periods, all of which have been subjected to examination –painted panels and polychrome sculptures, painting on canvas and various techniques on paper--, the exhibition aims to stir the public's curiosity and arouse interest in the complex work involved in expertising art.
In recent years, the keepers and restorers at the MNAC have exposed the works to visible and invisible electromagnetic radiation with which they have been able to identify the materials used, penetrate the layers they are made up of and discover how the artists worked and the materials, tools and techniques they used, as well as their procedures.
The original works are presented alongside the images obtained using different types of radiation and with an account of the main contributions by science. Elements will be revealed that are not at first sight obvious and that are fundamental for identifying an artistic period, an artist or the history of a work. The public will discover revealing testimonies or artists' amusements that have been preserved on the hidden face, the reverse, of works that are only known from their face or front. It will also be possible to observe the way in which artists worked during the creative process, on the preparatory drawing or when making changes to the composition. The show sets out to explain the changing fortunes and the different alterations some works of art have seen in their lifetime and how the experts can distinguish between an original, a copy, a forgery or a hyper-restoration.
With the support of:
A painting rescued for the MNACAfter a long process of research and restoration that was made possible thanks to sponsorship by BNP Paribas and its Foundation, experts at the museum have managed to identify The Conversion of Saint Paul as one of the few surviving works by the painter from Pastrana Juan Bautista Maíno, one of the people responsible for the introduction to Spain of the figurative art of Caravaggio and the circle of painters active in Rome in the early 17th century.
So as to explain to visitors the new attribution and the complex and delicate process of restoration it has undergone, The Conversion of Saint Paul is being exhibited in a room of its own, along with a preliminary painting from a private collection, an X-ray showing its condition before the intervention and a video detailing the process by which the canvas was restored.
The Conversion of Saint Paul entered the former Museu d'Art de Catalunya following its acquisition in 1952 and now that its authorship has been confirmed it will join the catalogue of works by Juan Bautista Maíno (1581-1649). Another of the 44 works by this painter, the Portrait of Fray Alonso de Santo Tomás, currently exhibited in the Museum's Baroque art rooms, already forms part of the MNAC's collections.
The Conversion of Saint Paul. The restoration