This is the key work of the Prado Museum's 'couriers' | Culture | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

It is the true secret information. How do the works journey inside and outdoors Spain? Who protects them? The Prado Museum has traditionally been very jealous of this info, though it opens a crack of sunshine. In essence, it’s in regards to the vindication of probably the most priceless and least recognized figures of the Madrid artwork gallery: the mail and its transport and safety techniques. This unknown entrance line of the entrance defend professionals comparable to María Antonio López de Asiaín, who in April transferred the work to the Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture (La Rioja) Offering to Bacchus of Houasse; or Sonia Tortajada, who took care, at comparable occasions, of the attractive useless Christ held by an angel by Alonso Cano in its transit to the Museum of Fine Arts of Granada, because of the centenary of Telefónica.

The works journey in packing containers with none identification of their origin or the canvas they comprise. No stamp. Just a code of figures. The phrase fragile and the black arrows indicating its right place. If they’re transported by aircraft, not even the commander is aware of the origin of the treasure, or treasures, that he’s transporting within the maintain. They could possibly be Rubens, Velázquez, Goya… “We are the ones who know what we are carrying, but we don't say it,” displays María Antonia López de Asiaín, restorer of the artwork gallery. “Only a very limited number of people know about it.” And she summarizes: “Discretion rules.” Not even customs provides detailed info.

Conservatives want that they journey by land transportation. It is loaded and sealed. The automobile is managed by GPS, the National Police is aware of all the nationwide and worldwide route prematurely. When it leaves the Spanish border, its custody passes to a non-public firm or the nation's police. But at all times informing the Spanish establishment. Every evening it’s monitored and the truck is parked, throughout breaks, in view of the transporters and safety forces. Land transportation permits us to ensure the circumstances (and the items journey with a system referred to as Thermo King, which ensures the parameters) of temperature and humidity. The Prado requires a temperature of 21ºC +/- 1ºC within the rooms on its loans; a humidity of 65% +/- 5%, 150 lumens for paint and 50 for paper graphics, and a safety catenary. In addition, the works should at all times acclimatize for twenty-four hours within the field. Due to the security necessities of the body, the Prado makes use of, in keeping with the traveler's wants, two fashions: a Basic Prado and a Superior Prado.

Sonia Tortajada, Isabel Bennasar and Maria Antonia Lopez de Asiain pose in one of the rooms of the Prado Museum.
Sonia Tortajada, Isabel Bennasar and María Antonia López de Asiaín pose in one of many rooms of the Prado Museum.Jaime Villanueva

Whether Goya, Ribera or Velázquez fly is extra sophisticated. The mail They fly two planes. In his slang. Combithese the place individuals and works within the vineyard go on the high (the most typical) and freighters. The latter, who additionally obtain minimal info, can transport works bigger than 1.70 centimeters, however require particular tickets. The drawback is that, as a result of safety of the airport itself (it’s prohibited to go onto the runways), the courier loses management of the work (the pallet is moved by a bull) for a number of everlasting minutes. No skilled can embark till he’s certain that the work has additionally been completed. Being a courier has no schedule. Every day of the 12 months and all its hours. Snow, rain or the aircraft is cancelled.

“When the work reaches its destination, you are the Prado,” says López de Asiaín. That means coping with the unexpected. An unfinished wall, rooms that aren’t but clear, insufficient lights, a piece on the air-con and the worst: the field is already open. The option to shield it? “Stand by their side all the time to monitor the painters, assemblers, electricians, who are not our brigade; and shield it with your body,” explains Isabel Bennasar, who works within the Prado works registry. “And always ask for any change with exquisite correction, because you are out of your casa“: Raise the height of the oil paintings so that they do not touch visitors' bags or place the canvas in a better monitored area.

Being a courier is not something you can learn and you have to make decisions on the spot. And you should know that “the most delicate moment is handling the installation; having 17 eyes on the lookout: lighting technicians, painters, cleaning,” warns the knowledgeable. And she explains: “To avoid this, we try to hang it last.” The courier supervises the packing, unpacking, loading, unloading and is current in all of the dealing with of the work.

Everything is practice. The most experienced train the young. Of course, technology has arrived and the works registration department maintains such exhaustive control that it even includes images of the ramps, turns or areas through which the paintings must travel. Controls the entire management of the work. The great central computer. From providing information to postal service to coordinate with the National Police.

'Offering to Bacchus', by Michel-Ange Houasse (1720).
'Offering to Bacchus', by Michel-Ange Houasse (1720).

Let's go back two years. It is the average time frame with which the works are requested. The National Gallery in London, for example, has petitioned for a Velázquez. The restoration department issues its report, which reaches the Board of Trustees, in which it argues whether it can be provided or not. There is pleasure. The mechanism is already working. There is a loan certificate (a delivery receipt with, among other information, the box number and seal) provided by the Registry, a conservation report on the work and an internal document that is a note of incidents in which the For example, the quality of the assemblers at the final destination. The minutes and report must be signed by those responsible for registration and conservation of the exhibition that receives the work. Others—very few—are carried by hand. “That is terrible because you are very exposed, even though there is no external identification,” recalls Asiaín.

Exceptional circumstances

This profession is a choreography, and the anecdotes would occupy a room in the museum. During the pandemic there were 49 works loaned outside and inside Spain that had to be brought. He helped video technology. The attacks of September 11, 2001 coincided with the great exhibition, organized in Jackson, Mississippi (United States), The majesty of Spainwhich contained 360 unique pieces from the Prado and National Heritage. They returned as American airspace reopened. Or that time when the pieces were travelling on a freighter near some horses and María Antonia decided not to go down to see the paintings to avoid making the animals nervous. “You learn with practice,” she sums up. “The mail is the first line of defense and if they don’t like something or it doesn’t work, they have to act because you work so that the work never suffers.”

However, there are also large sculptures in the Prado and handling them is difficult. “If it is vertical, it must be transported vertically, as it exists. And the box and packaging are designed in that position,” emphasizes Sonia Tortajada, sculpture restorer. This greatly limits the means of transportation and sometimes you have to resort, in international trips, to a freighter if you cannot find a plane with the necessary cargo capacity. The art gallery also provides this service. postal service to other institutions or private collections that need help.

All the culture that goes with you awaits you here.



The latest literary releases analysed by the best critics in our weekly newsletter


Subscribe to proceed studying

Read with out limits