Volume 6, Number 3, Sept. 1984, pp.12-13

In the News


Brushing Against More Prado Politics

This article printed 23 July in the San Diego Union discusses the controversy surrounding conservation treatment of the Prado's "The Maids of Honor" by Velasquez. "When Prado director Alfons Perez Sanchez announced in May that he had asked John Brealey of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to take charge of the cleaning, 22 members of the Ministry of Culture's Institute of Conservation protested. They called Perez Sanchez's decision 'arbitrary and unilateral,' and asked why there wasn't even one Spaniard capable of doing the work. The Association of Technical Conservators of Cultural Property added its voice to the protest. 'Spaniards, whose preparation is up to international standards, continue to be pushed aside,' the Association said in a press statement. ...Brealey, a 60-year-old naturalized American of British origin, appears more concerned about the quality of the light in which he has to work than about Prado politics. 'The painting was done in daylight in Velasquez's studio and it is quite impossible to restore it under those exact conditions,' he commented in an interview during a break in his work in a room in the Prado. He is doing the task in artificial light. The delicate job of cleaning consists in removing layers of varnish built up over the years. 'The painting will let me know when I've finished,' Brealey said. A team of Spanish restorers at the Prado will then put on the necessary finishing touches. Brealey said the resin Velasquez used to highlight pigments had darkened so much over the centuries that it had obscured many parts of the painting. 'The pigments themselves have also altered chemically over time so that you can now see underpainting the artist intended to cover up.' "

Monuments to a City's Neglect

The San Francisco Examiner reported on 12 August on the deterioration of San Francisco's outdoor bronze monuments. "San Francisco's most visible art treasurers are afflicted with two destructive diseases--malignant corrosion and municipal neglect. From Golden Gate Park to Union Square, the City's magnificent bronze monuments to great people and historic struggles 'are in desperate shape' according to Genevieve Baird, a bronze expert and president of the Bay Area Conservation Guild... 'Why keep on producing things and buying things if you can't take care of them?' asks Judith Rieniets, former president of the 120-member conservation guild. 'The statues seem so indestructible,' says Phoebe Dent Weil of the Washington University sculpture conservation lab in St. Louis. 'But within 10 years, in a major city, some irreversible damage will have occurred. 'San Francisco is slow if they are just discovering it now. Other cities have been (restoring statues) for the past decade.' ...The problem has not entirely escaped the Art Commission, the agency responsible for preserving the bronze statues and busts as well as 3,000 other municipal works. Commissioner Ray Taliaferro said that funds for outdoor statue maintenance have been requested routinely but never granted by the mayor's budget office. 'I have been on the commission almost 15 years and none of the mayors...have allowed it.' said Taliaferro. However, he said, Mayor Feinstein this year did give the commission $30,000 to hire a registrar to inventory and assess the condition of all art including the statues.

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