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Her Royal Highness the Princess Elena to inaugurate the exhibition From Herrera to Velázquez. Early Naturalism in Seville, at the Hospital of Los Venerables

November 29, 2005

Seville, 28 November, 2005.- Tomorrow, Her Royal Highness the Princess Elena – will inaugurate the exhibition entitled From Herrera to Velázquez. Early Naturalism in Seville, at the Hospital of Los Venerables. This is one of the greatest exhibitions of Spanish painting in the international panorama of the present season and is co-produced by the Focus-Abengoa Foundation and the Museo de Bellas Artes of Bilbao.

The exhibition is dedicated to Sevillian painting from the first third of the 17th century and will remain open in Seville until 28 February 2006. Later, the show will travel to Bilbao, where it can be visited from 20 March through 28 May at the Museo de Bellas Artes.

Under the scientific management of the Prado Museum’s Honorary Director, Alfonso Pérez Sánchez, and Professor Benito Navarrete Prieto, the exhibition has been endowed with an important thematic and didactic content. It can also boast a rigorous standard of scientific excellence, thanks to significant contributions from project leaders who, among other accomplishments, were able to identify the true authors of various works for the first time, as well as provide a new look at early Sevillian Naturalism from a different perspective.

By means of the 62 pieces of artwork representative of the artistic process being experienced in Seville during those years, the exhibition follows the path that leads from the paintings of Mannerist rhetoric, influenced by the Flemish school, to works characterised by Italian-style chiaroscuro Naturalism, a movement inspired by Caravaggio and his school. This change transpired over a period of less than thirty years and took place in the thriving, cosmopolitan Seville of the first quarter of the 17th century. At that time the city was in full artistic bloom and popular among collectors; it was a point of departure and arrival for both travellers and painters, where the contributions of Flemish painting met and mingled with Italian styles and influences – an exchange of ideas which found its ultimate artistic expression in the early work of Velázquez.

The exhibition brings together a series of pieces that are key to understanding this process, such as the Adoration of the Shepherds, a pivotal work previously attributed to Velázquez, from the National Gallery of London; prominent pieces by Velázquez such as Kitchen Scene from the Chicago Art Institute, as well as Head of a Young Man in Profile, on loan from the State Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg, Three Musicians, from the Gemäldegalerie of Berlin or The Luncheon, from the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts. Important works by painters such as Zurbarán, Ribera, Herrera the Elder, Tristán, Alonso Cano, Guy Romano, Orazio Borgianni, Juan de Roelas, Caravaggio and their disciples, etc., complete an overview of extraordinary artistic and historical interest.

The artwork on display comes from both Spanish and international museums as well as from private collections and organisations both in Spain and abroad. Special mention must be made of the important contribution of the archbishopric of Seville, many of whose works are now being exhibited publicly for the first time and have been restored for the occasion.

Important restoration efforts

In addition, this exhibition has constituted an enormous effort to reclaim Spain’s artistic heritage, involving the restoration of numerous paintings. The Focus-Abengoa Foundation and the Museo de Bellas Artes of Bilbao have provided the necessary economic resources for this undertaking, and have also created a Restoration Workshop in the Hospital of Los Venerables in Seville. Patrimonio Nacional, the Museo de Bellas Artes of Cordoba and the Prado Museum, who have restored Caravaggio’s work St. Jerome, from the Montserrat Abbey, also contributed significantly to the restoration process.

The Focus-Abengoa Foundation was created in 1982 as a result of the cultural initiative begun by Abengoa in 1972 with the publication of two volumes: “Sevillian Themes” and “Iconography of Seville”. During this same period, Abengoa also began compiling documents, books and engravings related to the medieval Kingdom of Seville or Sevillian authors. This initial cultural project made Abengoa’s leaders aware of the importance of expanding beyond the essential technological activities of the company to embrace a purpose that would benefit society as a whole, and for this reason the Fundación Fondo de Cultura of Seville was born.

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