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March

The "Diego Velázquez Research Centre" begins its activities for the exhibition "Saint Rufina. Velázquez: From Devotional Works to Court Scenes"

March 3, 2008

  • The exhibition catalogue surveys the importance and impact of Velázquez's canvas throughout all its trials and tribulations.
  • New technical data, with the endorsement of the Museo del Prado, confirm the authorship of "Saint Rufina".

Seville, 3rd March 2008.- Today the "Diego Velázquez Research Centre" officially opened the exhibition entitled "Saint Rufina. Velázquez: From Devotional Works to Court Scenes", which includes several works by this Sevillian artist. The show will be housed in the main exhibition hall of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation until 4th May.

The opening ceremony was presided over by Felipe Benjumea, Chairman of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation; Alfredo Sánchez Monteseirín, Mayor of Seville; Maribel Montaño, Cultural Delegate of the Seville Town Hall; José Jiménez, General Manager of Fine Arts of Culture Office, and Anabel Morillo León, General Manager of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation.

The exhibition "Saint Rufina. Velázquez: From Devotional Works to Court Scenes" is a major event for the city, as it brings together historical, technical and artistic elements that prove Velázquez's authorship and examine "Saint Rufina" within the painter's creative context, highlighting the dual nature of his work at Court. The devotional facet is represented in works such as "Saint Rufina" and "A Sybil" (circa 1630-31), possibly a portrait of Juana Pacheco, which displays an intense, secret truth. Meanwhile, the official and courtly facet is exemplified in the portrait of "The Infanta Maria of Austria, Queen of Hungary" (circa 1630), sister of Philip IV, which is technically indebted to the two previous paintings.

A book has been published for the occasion compiling the latest studies conducted by the scientific curators of the project, Benito Navarrete and Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez. These studies shed light on the painting’s history from when it was part of the House of Alba collection in the late 18th century until today. The new documents found contain confirmation of the presence of "Saint Rufina" among the paintings that the Cádiz-based wine merchant, Sebastián Martínez, had in his home in Madrid as opposed to in Cádiz, as well as his relationship with the Duchess of Alba, muse and friend of Goya. This relationship could account for its inclusion in the Martínez collection, a continuation of its pilgrimage which has been documented step by step through different collections.

Reference is also made to the profile of the collectors and their tastes, which has endowed the contributions with particular relevance in terms of the expectation and impact that the painting always aroused, as it has been the subject of investment throughout its colourful history. We get a glimpse of all the existent documentation for the first time thanks to the efforts of the researchers in the Manuscript Room at the National Library, the Historical Archive of Cádiz, the Protocols of Madrid and The Courtauld Institute of Art in London.

Through these contributions, we have discovered that in the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century, "Saint Rufina" belonged to the same collectors who owned Velázquez's "The Three Musicians" and his "Portrait of a Lady", currently at the Berlin Museum, and Murillo's intense, harsh painting "Old Woman and Boy" currently at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne.

The aforementioned text will also help to lay the foundation for the mission of the Velázquez Centre by re-creating and reconstructing the different collections to which "Saint Rufina" has belonged. This painting has always been highly coveted and sought-after, to such an extent that Queen Isabel II considered purchasing it back in 1844, at a time when José de Madrazo, Rafael Tejeo and Valentín Carderera, as well as by the other scholars at San Fernando, described it as a first-rate, albeit poorly restored, Velázquez, a circumstance which has always beleaguered the fortune of the painting.

On the other hand, worth spotlighting is the crucial cooperation from the Museo del Prado in this exhibition project, which for this occasion has lent the two works that are most closely related to "Saint Rufina": "A Sybil" and "The Infanta Maria of Austria, Queen of Hungary". These are joined by the Seville Town Hall's loan of "The Imposition of the Chasuble on Saint Ildefonso", another of the works that bears a special relationship with Saint Rufina due to the female heads that appear in the burst of glory of the chasuble. This is considered the first step in the creative process that Velázquez embarked on in 1623, when he painted the Town Hall's work, and that came to a close in 1630, when he tackled the subject of "Saint Rufina".

The Museo del Prado's help has also been crucial by providing all the technical and radiographic supplies and the comparative pigment studies of "Saint Rufina", which were extracted by the technical documentation office at the museum after the canvas was lent and analysed in 1993. These studies – which had never before been published, as the painting had been privately owned – along with the comprehensive, exhaustive study by the head of the technical documentation office and one of the top experts in the Sevillian painter’s technique, Carmen Garrido, were decisive in confirming Velázquez's authorship of the painting once and for all. Also key in this process was its comparison with the technical features of Velázquez's other paintings in the Prado, which are shown in the office that has been created for the occasion, thus giving the general public the chance to learn from the master's technique and judge for themselves. Also worth mentioning is the museographic design deployed once again thanks to García de Cubas's "El Taller", winner of the design prize at the Alexandria Biennale.



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