During the course of 2017 and thanks to support from the Iberdrola-Museum Programme for conservation and research, 37 works from the museum's collection have been restored. They include Plate (c.1500) by Aldar de Manises (Valencia); The Immaculate Conception (ca.1665) by José Antolínez; Monument to Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga by Francisco Durrio; View of Bilbao. La Sendeja (c.1917) by Aurelio Arteta; 13 enamels by Ricardo Arrúe and Ramiro Arrúe, including Still Life (1925), Nude, and Medusa (1920); Saint Peter Preaching and Saint Peter and Saint Paul before the Judge by Pedro Serra; Still Life (third quarter of the 17th century) by Jan van Kessel I; Pietà at the Foot of the Cross by Luisa Roldán, "La Roldana"; Point St. John, Cape Ferrat (last third of the 19th century) by Martín Rico; Meeting Place IV (1973) by Eduardo Chillida; Untitled (1988-1989) by Ricardo Catania –on display for the first time since it was donated this year –; and To the Sleeping Part (1993) by Pello Irazu.
Finally, within the works on paper section the project initiated three years ago continues with the restoration of twelve, late 19th-century drawings by the Bilbao born artist Roberto Laplaza, all executed in charcoal, pencil and ink on paper.
As on previous occasions, in addition to the material treatment of the works the Iberdrola – Museum Programme has contributed to their art-historical study.
All the works have been restored by the Department of Conservation and Restoration of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum: María José Ruiz-Ozaita; Jon Apodaka; Mercedes Briones; José Luis Merino Gorospe; and Sandra Rodríguez de Paula (a Fundación Iberdrola España grant student), with the collaboration of Javier Chillida and Equipo 7.
(Valladolid, 1868 - París, 1940)
Monument to Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga
Fire-gilded brass with a granite base. 610 x 550 x 445 cm
The work of the sculptor, ceramicist and jewellery-maker Durrio adhered to modernist and symbolist aesthetic concepts, with a clear preference for simple, curving, restrained forms. Durrio participated in numerous exhibitions in Paris where his work was praised by critics such as Mallarmé and Apollinaire. In his Monument to Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga Durrio represents the Muse of music holding a lyre to her breast, symbolising sorrow at the premature death of the Bilbao-born composer. The figure, made in fire-gilded brass, looks up to the heavens, her body forming an expressive arch shape. On one side of the base of the monument is a mask with closed eyes and its hands stretched upwards, with water flowing from its mouth. On the opposite side are two small sphinxes with a water spout.
TREATMENT: Work began with a technical inspection of the internal water circulation system. To do so, the sculpture had to be raised with a crane to reveal the circuit that distributes the water to the fountain's different spouts. Following this inspection by specialist technicians the water flow system was repaired. At the same time the sculpture was given a surface clean with some retouching of the patina. The final phase of treatment consisted of removing the mortar from between the granite blocks and replacing it with another specially made one of a matching tone.
(Barcelona, 1343 - 1405)
Saint Peter Preaching / Saint Peter and Saint Paul before the Judge
Tempera on panel. 125 x 101 cm
Pedro Serra belonged to an important Catalan family of painters active in the 14th century. The Serra brothers worked in an Italo-Gothic style of Sienese influence, characterised by slender figures with slanting eyes and small mouths. These panels come from the high altar of the church of San Pedro in Cubells (Lleida), possibly from the central section which has a cycle devoted to the life of that saint.
TREATMENT: Once the results of the technical analyses (X-radiography, infra-red reflectography, ultraviolet light, stratigraphic studies and chemical analyses) had been assessed, the works were given a light cleaning to remove old varnishes and repaint that impeded a correct reading of the images. The panels were consolidated with inserts of low density wood while the polychromy was stabilised using natural adhesives. After stabilising the panels any losses were filled in with gesso followed by chromatic integration and the application of varnish.
ALFAR DE MANISES, VALENCIA
(late 15th – early 16th century)
Plate, c. 1500
Gold lustre with incised lines and blue outlining 47 cm (diameter) 6.2 cm (height) 3.11 kg (weight)
Made by Alfar de Manises, this gold lustre plate has a rampant lion that covers the entire surface depicted with an incised outline. The remainder of the plate is covered with scales edged in cobalt blue. The reverse has a stylised sun in the centre and simplified fern leaves across the surface.
TREATMENT: Studying the plate using ultraviolet light revealed areas of old restorations that were not securely joined to the original material. Treatment consisted of removing the adhesives, varnishes and areas of repainting that altered the work's chromatic values. Some retouching was carried out using watercolour.
JAN VAN KESSEL I
(Antwerp, Belgium, 1626 - 1679)
Still Life, third quarter of the XVII century
Oil on copper. 40,5 x 54 cm
Commodatum by private collection in 2015
The Flemish painter Jan van Kessel I continued the artistic tradition of his grandfather Jan Brueghel the Elder. His brilliantly coloured and minutely detailed paintings on copper were highly appreciated by his contemporaries. Van Kessel was noted for his depictions of flowers, insects and animals but he also painted shells, armour and still lifes of fruit, bunches of flowers and garlands.
TREATMENT: After the relevant technical analyses were undertaken, work began on the treatment of the surface layer, removing oxidised varnishes and old areas of retouching. Having stabilised the paint layer, any losses were filled in with gesso, following by chromatic reintegration and the application of a coat of varnish. The painting's reverse was cleaned and any efflorescence on the copper removed. The presentation includes a new frame that corresponds to the style and period of the work.
(Madrid, 1635 - 1675)
The Immaculate Conception, c. 1665
Oil on canvas. 201 x 149,5 cm
Despite his premature death, José Antolínez is considered a key figure within 17th-century Spanish Baroque art. Particularly outstanding within his oeuvre are his depictions of the Immaculate Conception, for which he devised a particular typology characterised, as in this example, by a sweeter and more self-absorbed type of Virgin, contrasting with the dynamic setting.
TREATMENT: Chemical procedures were initially used to treat the oxidised varnishes and paint surface. This was followed by the correction of any distortions in the canvas, the repair of tears and consolidation. Paint losses were filled in with gesso and reintegrated and the work finally varnished. Treatment of the frame included cleaning and adjusting the polychromy.
LUISA ROLDÁN "LA ROLDANA"
(Seville, 1652 - Madrid, 1704)
Pietà at the Foot of the Cross
Clay, gesso, polychromed wood. 70,6 x 41,6 x 33,1 cm
Daughter of the sculptor Pedro Roldán, Luisa trained in her father's Seville workshop. She was the first woman to be appointed royal sculptor in Spain, serving both Charles II and Philip V. Consummately skilled in wood carving and terracotta, Luisa Roldán produced works characterised by the delicacy of the facial features and the hands.
TREATMENT: This sculptural group stands on a rectangular, polychromed wood base which had weakened due to insect infestation. Work consisted of a structural repair to the base with adhesives and pressure. Finally, the polychromy was given a surface cleaning and any losses were chromatically adjusted using watercolour.
(Bilbao, 1842-Madrid, 1930)
12 drawings in pencil and/or charcoal on laid paper
The Bilbao-born artist Roberto Laplaza principally worked in Madrid where he collaborated on important mural projects. The museum possesses around 100 charcoal drawings by his hand. Depicting allegorical subjects, the four seasons, the arts and the theological virtues, among others, they are preliminary studies for the decoration of churches and town palaces of the Madrid aristocracy.
TREATMENT: The drawings were mechanically cleaned with specialist brushes and rubbers. After the supports were chemically stabilised any buckling of the paper was treated and losses repaired with paper inserts. The losses were then chromatically adjusted and the sheets were given conservation mounts.
(San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid, 1833 - Venice, Italy, 1908)
Point St. John. Cape-Ferrat, last third of the 19th century
Oil on panel. 18 x 36 cm
This scene on the French coast is notable for its varied palette and careful observation of light, both characteristics of this Madrid-born artist. Rico's paintings are influenced by the work of the Barbizon School and by Turner, Claude Lorrain and Fortuny. With his distinctive style Rico achieved an extremely high reputation among critics and on the art market of his day. Due to his close relations with the art dealer Adolphe Goupil, most of the artist's works are now in private collections outside Spain.
TREATMENT: Having assessed the results of the technical analyses using ultraviolet light and infrared reflectography, it was decided to remove the old areas of repainting at the upper left corner of the composition which considerably affected the work's legibility. This was done by cleaning a secco using a scalpel. Treatment was completed with a localized varnish.
(Bilbao, 1889 - Caracas, Venezuela, 1978)
(Bilbao, 1892 - Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France, 1971)
13 enamels on copper
The enamels made by Ricardo Arrúe in collaboration with his brother Ramiro constitute one of the most original cycles within Basque decorative arts. Using simplified forms and relatively unrealistic colours, the wide range of subjects include still lifes, nudes, Basque scenes and figures, mythological characters and religious episodes.
TREATMENT: The restoration of thirteen enamels by Ricardo and Ramiro Arrúe began with the removal of labels on the reverse, which were then sealed. The copper support revealed a proliferation of salts between the metal and the enamel, resulting in losses. Following analysis of these salts they were mechanically removed to eliminate their corrosive action and an acrylic resin applied to protect the metal in the affected areas. The museum's conservation storage includes a relative humidity control system.
(Bilbao, 1879 Mexico City, 1940)
View of Bilbao. La Sendeja, c. 1917
Oil on cardboard. 53,5 x 60,2 cm
Aurelio Arteta successfully fused tradition and avant-garde in Basque art prior to the Civil War. Throughout his career Arteta remained notably interested in realistic depictions of working people's lives and their social context, depicting them in scenes of markedly restrained colour and formal simplification, as evident in this view of calle of Sendeja, a popular Street in Bilbao.
TREATMENT: Restoration began with treatment of the verso, removing a strip of Kraft paper glued round the edge of the support. This strip of paper had produced serious oxidisation and had made the entire cardboard support buckle. This distortion was corrected, after which any splits were consolidated and reintegrated with inserts of Japanese paper.
Untitled, 1988 - 1989
Mixed method. 43 x 200 x 54 cm
Donated by Ipiña-Bidaurrazaga collection in 2017
Catania produces personal, intimate sculpture characterised by their formal purity, a degree of minimalism and a wide-ranging conceptual meaning that looks for the essential.
TREATMENT: The treatment applied to this work was devised by the artist, who collaborated with the museum staff on its application. During the process of the work's creation Catania had applied an anti-rust product that had caused the metal to deteriorate. Restoration began by taking the work apart and treating the surface to eliminate the marks produced by rust. Finally, a protective acrylic layer was applied.
(San Sebastián, 1963)
To the Sleeping Part, 1993
Wood and vinyl paint. 169 x 109 x 37,1 cm
A key figure in Basque contemporary art, Irazu has worked as a sculptor but also with photography, drawing and mural painting. In the 1990s he made works that play with architectural references, de-constructing them in order to re-assemble them in a discontinuous manner, resulting in an effect of alienation with regard to the meaning of the everyday objects and materials.
TREATMENT: In this case the conservators were able to work with the artist to jointly devise an action plan. Treatment consisted of consolidating the support and pictorial material. Finally, small losses were chromatically integrated using the same type of vinyl originally employed by the artist.
EDUARDO CHILLIDA JUANTEGUI
(San Sebastián,1924 - 2002)
Meeting Place IV, 1973
Reinforced concrete. 215 x 475 x 408 cm
Within Chillida's extensive sculptural corpus is a group of monumental works that were principally created for public display, most of them entitled Meeting Place. In this series of works the artist focused on the invention of new models of architectural sculptures for contemporary urban contexts. One of the key concerns in this project was the structuring of the forms in space and the relationships between the exterior space that envelops the form and its interior space. The series consists of seven sculptures created over the course of ten years, starting in 1964.
TREATMENT: Working with the museum's team for this project was curator-restorer Javier Chillida, an expert in the treatment of stone materials and a key name for the restoration of Chillida's concrete sculptures. The museum also counted on the collaboration of other institutions and various experts with scientific and industrial backgrounds. After the preliminary analyses were completed the surface layer of the work was treated, including the application of a biocide product. This was followed by a consolidation of a type specifically for stone and by the treatment of rust in the work's metal elements. Finally, the criteria of minimum intervention was applied to the reintegration, retaining old losses to the sculpture. The conservation programme will allow the museum to monitor the work's future evolution and establish a conservation procedure.