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The conversion of saint Paul. Attribution and restoration

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The conversion of saint Paul. Juan Bautista Maíno. © MNAC-Calveras/Mèrida
The conversion of saint Paul. Juan Bautista Maíno. © MNAC-Calveras/Mèrida

A painting rescued for the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

After 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.

Video of The Conversion of Saint Paul  (4'30'')


A new attribution. The Conversion of Saint Paul, by Juan Bautista Maíno

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 research undertaken by the Museum's conservation team on The Conversation of Saint Paul has revealed the most representative aspects that characterise the work of Maíno:
• The influence of Caravaggio, especially in the hair of the angels and in the harsh expression on Jesus's face.
• The lively brushwork on the clouds.
• The diagonal rays of light that create artificial lighting effects with a powerful poetic feeling.

One fundamental point in the process of attribution worth mentioning is the comparison with another painting of the biblical story of the Conversion of Saint Paul which is considered a preliminary work for the one in the MNAC and which clearly reveals the links between the two works and therefore upholds the attribution to Maíno.

The Conversion of Saint Paul. The restoration

The Conversion of Saint Paul was in a severe state of degradation as a result of a fire in 1985 in the office in Barcelona Town Hall where it was kept. The effects of the fire on the work and previous alterations to it called for a careful and far-reaching job of restoration, which has been possible thanks to sponsorship by the BNP and its Foundation.

The restoration work provided the opportunity to analyse the materials used in the work and describe the technique the painter used. The pigments and the way they were applied to get the right shades and the desired light effects, as well as the chemical composition of the earthy preparation, coincide with those identified in other works by Maíno analysed in the Museo del Prado laboratory on the occasion of the exhibition devoted to the painter (2009-2010).

Digital publication (pdf)

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