Peter Paul Rubens' <i>Triumph of the Church</i> (1625-6) after conservation

In 1626 Netherlandish painter Peter Paul Rubens completed one of the most important commissions of his lifetime, a suite of finished oil sketches referred to as the Triumph of the Eucharist series. Six of these works have now been restored as part of a training program developed by the Getty Foundation in collaboration with the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain and supported through the Panel Paintings Initiative.

 
The Triumph of the Eucharist panels were commissioned by the Infanta Clara Eugenia, ruler of the Southern Netherlands and a member of the Spanish royal family, as studies for large, sumptuous tapestries to be hung in the Clares de Descalzas Reales monastery in Madrid. Although Rubens used the paintings as preparatory works to plan his tapestry designs, they are exquisite works of art in their own right and offer a rare glimpse into his artistic process. Six paintings of this important series had been preserved at the Prado Museum. Yet, at a later point in their history, the paintings were enlarged and thinned and restraints were applied to flatten them out. These interventions eventually caused cracks, deformations, and uneven surfaces in the wood, threatening the surfaces and Rubens' virtuoso brushwork.

 
A Getty grant was awarded in 2011 to the Prado Museum to undertake treatment of the panels, using the conservation as a major opportunity to train mid-career and post-graduate conservators. The program offered a range of experiences, from basic treatment of splits and cracks to complex decision-making processes involving conservators, curators, and conservation scientists. By the end of the conservation project, seven different professionals benefited from training.

Following the completion of the conservation treatment, the newly restored paintings were featured in an exhibition at the Prado Museum, which has now traveled to the Getty Center. Spectacular Rubens is currently on view at the Getty Museum and includes the panels displayed alongside the tapestries, as well as a special section of the exhibition devoted to the Foundation's support of conservation and training related to old master paintings on wooden panels. Prior to the conservation project, it would not have been safe for the Rubens panels to travel.

Installation of Rubens: Triumph of the Eucharist at the Prado Museum, 2014.
Above: Installation view of Rubens: Triumph of the Eucharist at the Prado Museum in spring 2014. Photo © Museo del Prado. Top of page: The Triumph of the Church, Peter Paul Rubens (1625-26), after treatment. Photo © Museo del Prado


Watch a video about the conservation of the Triumph of the Eucharist panels





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