The Prado Museum exhibits for the first time ‘Las hilanderas’, the work of Velázquez. Yes, for the first time, because the work, as we knew it until now, was not exactly the painter’s version. Prado Museum Project1199 Presents The Original Version Of Velázquez
The painting, as we saw it, was the result of two performances carried out at different times. Velázquez painted between 1655 and 1660 the surface occupied by the central figures, in the foreground, and the tapestry in the background, and measured 1’67×2’50 meters.
During the 18th century the painting was expanded by adding a wide band at the top (with the arch and the oculus) and smaller bands at the right, left and bottom ends, to measure 2.20×28.9 meters.
The reason for the enlargement is the most prosaic ?? and frequent ?? purely decorative: the walls of the newly opened Royal Palace had to be filled in and large paintings are needed.
But in the case of ‘Las hilanderas’, which adorned the king’s dining room in the Royal Palace, these alterations have affected the reading of the content of one of the great masterpieces of European painting, since the scene that takes place before him tapestry that reproduces ‘The Rape of Europe’ ?? that Titian painted for Philip II and in turn copied Rubens ?? it felt farther away.
Now it can be seen as Velázquez painted it, recovering its original size through a mobile structure that acts as a frame and allows a total aesthetic integration of the work in the room, hiding the additions that were made in the 18th century. And the plan of the tapestry regains the prominence that Velázquez wanted it to have.
Pioneering prototype of the Prado
The delicate state of conservation of the work has prevented the removal of the additions and it was decided to restore its original size and composition through a superimposed mobile structure that has been developed by the museum itself with the support of American Friends of the Prado Museum and sponsorship. from American Express. This is the first action of the project ‘Framing the Prado’.
The system used to return ‘Las hilanderas’ to its original size and vision is a prototype “pioneer in the world ?? according to the deputy director of Conservation of the Museum, Andrés Úbeda ??; there is no other similar specimen, since it is something more than a frame “. Prado Museum Project1199 Presents The Original Version Of Velázquez
‘Las hilanderas’ by Velázquez in room 15 A with the new framing.
It is not an isolated case. In fact, the manipulation of masterpieces has been a constant in the history of Art. The best known case is possibly that of ‘The Final Judgment’ (1535-1541) by Michelangelo. After his death, Pope Pius V commissioned the painter Daniele da Volterra to cover the figures’ genitals. And so he did, going down in history as ‘Il Braghettone’.
But it was not the only one. Most of the “garments” were added throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, adding a total of 38. After the extensive restoration process of the work in the early 1990s, most of the additions were removed ?? not without controversy ??, but it was decided to keep the “tweaks” of Volterra.
‘The Night Watch’, completed 300 years later
The new exhibition of Velázquez’s painting coincides with that of The Night Watch at the Rijksmuseum, completed for the first time, three hundred years later, as Rembrandt painted it.
The painting exhibited so far is not exactly the one he painted between 1640 and 1642 either. When in 1715 it was decided to transfer the work from its original location to the Antwerp City Hall, and given that the space chosen, between two doors, was not large enough , they cut out the painting on all four sides.
The removed parts were never found, but their original size was known from two copies made in the 17th century. From that copy, and using cutting-edge technology based on artificial intelligence, it has been possible to recreate the missing pieces and return the painting to its original appearance.
Computers have been working for hours and hours to “learn to imitate Rembrandt’s brushstroke and technique” and recreate the missing parts on the basis of one of the copies. The missing “reconstructed” pieces are now temporarily on display in the Rijksmuseum integrated into the original. A unique opportunity to appreciate the colossal size of the work before the Amsterdam museum removes the installation.Prado Museum Project1199 Presents The Original Version Of Velázquez