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Launch of the Diego Velázquez Research Centre to promote the works of the Seville painter

October 16, 2007

Seville, 16 October 2007. As from today, the Diego Velázquez Research Centre has a Supervisory Commission that will be responsible for protecting and supporting the cultural initiatives promoted by the Centre. The Commission, which will have a joint honorary presidency shared by Alfredo Sánchez Monteseirín, Mayor of Seville, and Anabel Morillo León, Director of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, is a result of the agreement signed between the Foundation and Seville City Council following the purchase of Velázquez’s "Santa Rufina".

The provincial representative from the Regional Ministry of Culture of Seville, Isabel Montaño, the technical director, Paz Sánchez, and the manager, Alberto Mula, have also been appointed as members of the Commission together with the Vice-chairman of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, Juan Antonio Carrillo Salcedo, and the Professor of Economic Institutions and History from the University of Seville, Antonio Miguel Bernal.

The Diego Velázquez Research Centre, which will be based at the Hospital de los Venerables, the headquarters of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, exists to promote the study of the work by the Seville painter as well as to analyse the background of his professional career in the city of Seville. The Research Centre has been created with a clear mission: to instil the values of heritage in the people of Seville, from one of the most vibrant artistic periods in the city’s history.

During the first session of the Commission, the Director General of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, Anabel Morillo, presented the cultural, artistic and scientific project of the Diego Velázquez Research Centre. The action lines have been determined by the scientific advisors to the project: Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez, Honorary Director of the Prado Museum, and Benito Navarrete, lecturer at the University of Alcalá.

Initially, the "Santa Rufina" by Velázquez will arrive and will be hung in its definitive home in the first few days of December. The Focus-Abengoa Foundation will display the work by the Seville painter in a free temporary exhibition designed to allow visitors to see the work in an intimate setting. The hall at the Hospital de los Venerables will become a room exclusively dedicated to the painting by Velázquez. It will be hung in a modest, efficient and modern way in order to present the painting free from spatial hindrances, carefully presented and placing special emphasis on lighting the work correctly and on creating the appropriate atmosphere for its contemplation and enjoyment by the visiting public.

An additional and immediate line of action by the Research Centre is the loan of two of the works that have important relevance to the Santa Rufina: "La Sibila" and "Infanta Doña María, Reina de Hungría" by Velázquez, which together with "La Imposición de la Casulla" and a further two paintings by the painter from foreign museums that are currently on loan, will make up the temporary exhibition entitled, "En torno a Santa Rufina: Velázquez de lo íntimo a lo cortesano" (Around the Santa Rufina: Velázquez from the intimate to the courteous). This exhibition will be assisted by Carmen Garrido, Manager of the Technical Office of the Prado Museum, who will give her technical conclusions on the artist’s work, as well as Peter Cherry and the scientific advisers to the project. This exhibition, which is due to take place in the first week of March 2008, will also coincide with the international symposium entitled "En torno a la Santa Rufina" (Around the "Santa Rufina"), to which Spanish and international experts on Velázquez’s work will also be invited.

The symposium will focus on five specific aspects:

  • The debates about the Santa Rufina, allowing leading experts to explain their theories about the work based on sound and proven arguments.
  • Technical issues about the restoration of the painting and comparisons with radiographic analyses and pigments from Velázquez’s works.
  • The ideological woman in Velázquez’s work.
  • The iconography of the Santa Rufina in the context of Spanish painting.
  • The intrinsic history of the work and its journey through different collections over time.

The fourth phase, which is scheduled to take place next May, will be the presentation of the Research Centre’s permanent exhibition. This exhibition attempts to explain in detail Velázquez’s professional career in Seville, which culminates with him attending court, being appointed as the court painter and painting the "Santa Rufina". The exhibition invites viewers to reconstruct the historic memory of the city of Seville, the painter’s surroundings, his friends, the influences on the city’s culture and the developments that took place there. The works that have been contributed by the Seville City Hall and its collaboration regarding the office of the Archbishop of Seville, as well as support from other entities that will contribute important private collections of highly significant works, are therefore all fundamental.

As a result of the signed agreement, Seville City Hall will provide the Research Centre with "La Imposición de la Casulla a San Ildefonso", a work by Velázquez whose female characters bear a close relationship to the Santa Rufina, and an anonymous "Vista de la ciudad de Sevilla", that helps us to appreciate the urban evolution of Seville and which reveals its significance when compared to other views of the city contained in the Focus-Abengoa Foundation’s collection of illustrations. In addition to these two works, the City Hall will lend the Centre an "Inmaculada" by Zurbarán; the portrait of Juan Martínez Montañés, by Varela; and "Fray Pedro de Oña", also by Zurbarán.

The exhibition project will therefore focus on the importance of naturalism in shaping Velázquez’s personality. The presence of accomplished works by other artists of the era that gave rise to naturalism in the field of sculpture will therefore be of great importance, as well as other highly prestigious works, including those by Cavarozzi, Maino, Roelas and Herrera el Viejo, indisputable influences on Velázquez’s personality.

An important milestone in this contextualisation of the influences on the Seville painter, as well in the recovery of its sculptural heritage, will be the restoration in the workshop of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation of two of the sculptures by Martínez Montañés in the Santa Clara collection belonging to the Archbishop’s office. "La Inmaculada" and "San Juan Bautista" were produced just as Velázquez was leaving the city in 1622-23 and are formally linked with works by another of the masters of this new naturalism, Francisco de Herrera el Viejo, whose important work "Inmaculada con San Joaquín y Santa Ana" will be on show.

The second point that the Research Centre supports will be the successors to Velázquez’s art, whose influence can be seen in the works of a young Murillo, a painter that began in the city basing his work on the advances made by Velázquez, Herrera and Zurbarán, artists also present in the exhibition dialogue.

This is the context in which the Centre can provide important added value, once again related to the recovery of some of the most attractive and magnetic works from the artist recently identified and published by Benito Navarrete in the scientific magazine "Goya" (No. 295-296, 2003). It refers to the "Santa Catalina" by Murillo, previously attributed to Cano, from the Santa Catalina church in Seville that was plundered by Marshall Soult (it was inventoried among the paintings seized by the intruding government in the city of Seville in 1810 and subsequently entered the important collection of Sir William Stirling-Maxwell). Its loss from the Santa Catalina church was lamented by the 19th century Seville historian González de León, "Various paintings of merit existed in this temple, which have been lost due to neglect or greed; a bust of Santa Catalina by Murillo...". The portrait to the divine naturalist that the artist presents in this work makes a perfect pair with the "Santa Rufina" and is back again in the city that it should never have left and to where it will return again after touring various European collections in Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

It is also important to highlight the strong educational commitment of the Centre, that above all will try to scientifically explain the context of each work as well as making it accessible, including it in the exhibition dialogue that will explain the background and successors to Velázquez’s painting. Visitors can immerse themselves in a journey through time that incorporates accomplished pictorial works but also the most modern techniques in museumology.

Entry to the Diego Velázquez Research Centre, which will be free for the people of Seville, has a clear objective: to make civil society participate in the activities organised for the purpose of rescuing Velázquez’s "Santa Rufina" for the cultural heritage of Andalusia and Spain.

The Focus-Abengoa Foundation was started in 1982 as a result of the cultural work begun in 1972 by Abengoa with the publication of the works Temas Sevillanos (Themes of Seville) and Iconografía de Sevilla (Iconography of Seville). A collection of documents, books and recordings on the Kingdom of Seville and by Sevillian authors was created at the same time. This initial cultural work showed Abengoa’s directors the importance to the company, beyond its core technology based work, of its involvement in activities that directly benefit society, and from this the Cultural Fund Foundation of Seville was created.

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