40 years because the restoration of 'Las Meninas': a cleansing marked by controversy that introduced mild again to the portray | Culture | EUROtoday

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In 1984, after a dialog between Felipe González and Javier Solana, then Minister of Culture, permission was given to revive Las Meninas. The particular person chargeable for the work might be John Brealy, a British specialist (whether or not he was not Spanish was the topic of a lot debate), head of restoration on the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

For nearly three weeks (the time vital), Brealy labored alone in a room on the Prado Museum. He eliminated the layer of mastic varnish (resin) that had yellowed the work because of the passage of time.

The body was taken down and rested on some shock absorbers. He had the assistance of a ladder with wheels to succeed in the best a part of a piece of greater than three meters. At that point it was the perfect place to work as a result of El Prado didn’t have the present restoration workshops.

The room through which Brealy labored was closed to the general public, solely different work exhibited in that house accompanied him. This place had two entrances, one door led to the previous places of work of the museum administration. The different linked with the remainder of the rooms.

From left to right, Clara Quintanilla, Enrique Quintana, Rocío Dávila and Maite Dávila, responsible for the restoration of 'Las meninas', after the cleaning carried out by John Brealey.
From left to proper, Clara Quintanilla, Enrique Quintana, Rocío Dávila and Maite Dávila, chargeable for the restoration of 'Las meninas', after the cleansing carried out by John Brealey.Prado Museum

To the room the place they have been restored Las Meninas Brealy agreed and only some individuals had permission to enter, such because the younger crew of Prado restorers, amongst whom was Enrique Quintana, 26 years previous on the time.

One day, screams started to be heard on the opposite aspect of one of many doorways: it was a professor of Fine Arts with a bunch of scholars who demanded to see the portray to cease the restoration. They claimed that they’d witnessed how Brealy lifted layers of paint as a result of, they stated, they’d seen coloration within the cotton swabs with which the restorer labored. The skilled received scared, he thought they have been coming to lynch him, he stopped his work for the day and left by way of the opposite door.

John Brealy, during the restoration of 'Las Meninas' in 1984.
John Brealy, in the course of the restoration of 'Las Meninas' in 1984. Paco Junquera (Cover/Getty Images)

Another controversy was over Brealy's nationality. Different individuals complained as a result of, in response to him, it needs to be a Spaniard who touched one of many icons of this nation's portray. “He was condemned beforehand. Before they knew what I was going to do, I had already been judged negatively. There has been a sector of professionals who have closed their initial position and, later, even if they were satisfied with my work, they have not wanted to give in,” said the restaurateur in an interview in this newspaper.

Brealy did a general cleaning, that is, he did not divide the painting by windows or areas, as some restorers do. He started on the right side, at the main point of light. This method marked the way in which many paintings in the Prado have been cleaned since then.

  John Brealy, in another image in front of 'Las Meninas'.
John Brealy, in another image in front of 'Las Meninas'.Paco Junquera (Cover/Getty Images)

He didn't touch anything else. The painting, which survived the fire of the Alcázar of Madrid in 1734, was moved to Valencia during the Civil War and from there to Geneva, has almost no damage, only some scratches. There is a cut on Isabel de Velasco's skirt, another on the right cheek of Infanta Margarita. On the back of the canvas, on the ceiling, where the panels are, there is some damage. It is truly a miracle how it has been preserved.

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Before completing the restoration, Brealy called Manuela Mena, at that time deputy director of the Prado. She wanted her to be present for the finishing touch. You have to focus your gaze on the last step of the door at the bottom of the painting, it is the place furthest from the viewer with a very particular light that the restorer recovered by cleaning it.

The steps of the back door gained luminosity with the restoration.
The steps of the back door gained luminosity with the restoration.Prado Museum

After finishing cleaning the painting, Brealy gave it a final coat of natural resin varnish with greater stability to prevent yellowing. Before saying goodbye, he had a surprise for the young team of Prado restorers: he allowed Rocío Dávila, another young restorer, and Quintana to give it the last layer, what is known as reintegration. “The day before I had a car accident, I broke a bone in my wrist and I couldn't participate. I was an observer and prepared the final report,” says Quintana.

Thanks to the restoration, the viewer can go through the painting again, appreciate the depth and planes that Velázquez devised with the management of the light that enters, above all, through this window.

The restoration began to be carried out on the right to enhance the effect of the light entering through the window.
The restoration began to be carried out on the right to enhance the effect of the light entering through the window.Prado Museum

Plácido Arango (some time later he was patron of the Prado Museum) financed John Brealy's stay in Madrid. That is to say, he paid his expenses, but not a salary, because the restaurateur did not charge a euro for his work.

The restoration cost 5,400 dollars at the time. That money was taken from the three million pesetas that Hilly Mendelssohn had donated so that the Prado could invest in restorations. The State did not pay anything.


Format: Guiomar of Being

Design: Ana Fernández

Development: Alejandro Gallardo

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