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More than 200 universities participate in the international symposium "Saint Rufina. Velázquez: From devotional works to court scenes"

March 18, 2008

Seville, 18 March 2008.- More than 200 students from the University of Seville and the Universidad Pablo de Olavide have participated in the first international symposium, entitled "Saint Rufina. Velázquez: From devotional works to court scenes", which was held at the Hospital de los Venerables in Seville, the headquarters of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation. Over the course of three days, those attending have been able to examine the studies and theories in detail from thirty international experts on Velázquez's painting.

Coordinated by Benito Navarrete, the scientific adviser of the Diego Velázquez Research Centre and a lecturer at the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, the symposium was also participated by Carmen Garrido, manager of the Technical Office at the Prado Museum; Zahira Véliz, from the Courtauld Institute in London; Tanya Tiffany, from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Leticia de Frutos, from the Subdirectorate General for State Museums of the Ministry of Culture; James Macdonald, from Sotheby's; Juan Carlos Marset, general manager of Inaem (Spanish National Institute for the Scenic Arts and Music); Tom Burns, journalist and writer, and Peter Cherry, from Trinity College Dublin, among others, creating a highly diverse team of experts that strengthened the openness of the Centre.

The talk by James Macdonald, director for Antique Painting from Sotheby's, attracted great interest. In his speech, Macdonald highlighted the "very high value" that Velázquez's works reach at auction, partly due to the "rarity of works by the painter", which according to exports, totals about 120 pieces. "The best example being the 12 million euros that the Focus-Abengoa Foundation paid for the Saint Rufina, by Velázquez", a process that Macdonald witnessed first hand.

For Juan Carlos Marset, general manager of Inaem (Spanish National Institute for the Scenic Arts and Music), the fact that there are works of art of such importance to citizens, such as the Saint Rufina for the people of Seville, "is an example of the collaboration and cooperation that should exist between the public administration and society. Governments and civil society must jointly look for policies that encourage the development of cultural initiatives".

The speakers emphasised that this "teamwork", to which Pilar Barraca, from the Ministry of Culture, referred to as "business patronage", must be more common and generalised. "The recovery of works of art is a work of conscience that impacts all national heritage. It would be nice if actions such as those of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation were more frequent, regardless of whether they are carried out by a public or a private institution. The important issue is that the art works are recovered and return to their country of origin", added Barraca.

Also highlighted during the symposium, is the difficulty involved in analysing Velázquez's work, specifically his Seville work, due to being highly dispersed owing to its coincidence with the disentailment period in Spain and the Napoleonic war. In fact, Ignacio Cano, ex-director of the Bellas Artes Museum in Seville, emphasised the "huge lack of knowledge that still exists about Velázquez in the histography of the era. The Velázquez of the court are well understood, but in the Seville collections there are still doubts, including about the authorship".

Tom Burns, writer and journalist, also offered his opinion on this subject, and on the last day of the symposium told of the departure of Velázquez’s work from Spain at the end of the 19th century, "when they began to discover the Seville painter, especially the English. They took away a pleasant surprise, especially with his portraits".

This first international symposium, organised by the Diego Velázquez Research Centre and the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, coincided with the exhibition of the same name, which will be held in the principal exhibition hall at the headquarters of the Foundation until 4 May and at which Velázquez's "Saint Rufina" can be seen alongside three other important works by the same artist, "The Imposition of the Chasuble on Saint Ildefonso", "Sibila" and "The Infanta Maria of Austria, Queen of Hungary."

In reference to the exhibition, José Milicua, a member of the permanent committee of the Board of Trustees of the Prado Museum, expressed his satisfaction that the Prado had lent Sibila and The Infanta Maria of Austria, Queen of Hungary. After seeing the exhibition he declared that it was "more than justified" in his opinion. Milicua also indicated that "the availability and organisation of the works in the exhibition allow the Saint Rufina to be seen and understood in more detail" and he went on to congratulate the Focus-Abengoa Foundation and the Diego Velázquez Research Centre.

Lecturer José Manuel Pita Andrade, ex-director of the Prado Museum and member of the permanent committee of the Board of Trustees of the Museum, also added his congratulations and highlighted the excellent research and documentation work collated in the book edited especially for the exhibition and which includes the latest contributions made by the scientific advisers to the project, Benito Navarrete and Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez. According to , "there is no doubt about the authenticity of the Saint Rufina", a work that, in his opinion "Velázquez painted upon returning from his first trip to Italy".

The goal of the Diego Velázquez Research Centre is to disseminate studies about the works by this sevillian painter and analyse the background of his professional career in Seville. In this sense, the objective is clear: to contribute to inculcate in sevillians the cultural values of one the peak periods in the life of this city, a time when Andalusia was a beacon for all of Europe.

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