'Restoration Rogier van der Weyden'

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NEWS RELEASE, 2 September 2009
Rogier van der Weyden
THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS
A Restoration Project Completed
The important restoration of one of the showpieces of the Royal
Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA) has been completed. After
three years of meticulous treatment, The Seven Sacraments by Rogier
van der Weyden shall be shown in all its original glory at the
forthcoming exhibition Rogier van der Weyden 1400|1464 – The Passion
of the Master at Museum M in Leuven.
The triptych of The Seven Sacraments was painted by Rogier van der Weyden
and his workshop. Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400 – 1464) was one of the
most influential painters of the fifteenth century. He created the triptych
between 1440 and 1445.
The painting shows the interior of a church and the simultaneous administration
of the seven sacraments. In the middle panel, centrally in the nave, Christ is
depicted on the cross, with the Virgin, St John and the three Marys standing
beside. Many of the figures on the side panels appear to be portraits, though just
one has been identified: the bishop who is administering the Sacrament of the
Confirmation is Jean Chevrot, the donor of the altarpiece. The work was
bequeathed to the Royal Museum in 1841 by Florent van Ertborn (1784-1840).
The Royal Museum has been able to restore the masterpiece thanks to the
generous support of SD Worx and the Inbev-Baillet Latour Fund. It took Dr.
Griet Steyaert three years to complete the treatment project (2006 – 2009).
The restoration of the triptych was necessary, as here and there the paint layer
had become loose and pieces were in danger of being lost. Moreover, the original
surface layer had become obscured by a thick layer of aged varnish, overpaintings
and previous retouches. As the careful cleaning of the painting progressed, the
original richness of colour gradually reappeared. Subtle details, such as pins in
some of the headscarves, became visible again. Some of the heads in the painting
posed a specific restoration challenge: while part of the original composition, they
were not painted directly onto the panel, but rather onto tinfoil and subsequently
cut out and fixed to the oak support, which has for that matter also been treated.
The Seven Sacraments was fitted with a new frame, believed to be close to the
original.
Before and during the treatment, the painting also received a thorough material
and technical examination. As this work is an important masterpiece, the
restoration was carried out in consultation with an international supervisory
commission.
This project is undoubtedly the most important in the ten-year history of the
museum’s restoration workshop. Over the past decade, the workshop team has
restored over eighty paintings. Some restoration projects are performed behind a
glass wall, so that visitors to the museum can follow the process. During “open
hours”, members of the public can enter the restoration room and interact with
the restorers.
However, the workshop is not only about restoration. The team also takes care of
the conservation of the approximately 2700 paintings in the museum collection.
These stabilising treatments are crucially important, as they prevent further
deterioration of the paintings and ensure that the collection is maintained for the
next generations. Over the past ten years, hundreds of paintings have been
treated in this manner.
Shortly the triptych will be moving to Museum M in Leuven, where it will feature
prominently in the exhibition Rogier van der Weyden 1400|1464 - The Passion of
the Master from 20 September onwards. The Seven Sacraments is one of the
highlights of this prestigious exhibition, which brings together over a hundred
showpieces from the most prominent collections in Europe and the United States.
You can download the complete press file and high resolution visuals on our
website www.kmska.be. For login and password, please contact:
Véronique Van Passel
Pers en communicatie
Plaatsnijdersstraat 2 - 2000 Antwerpen
T +32 3 242 04 38
F +32 3 248 08 10
[email protected]
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