Live Restoration: Rogier van der Weyden Unveiled

Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Live Restoration: Rogier van der Weyden Unveiled

Beginning June 14, 2018, The Lamentation of Christ (c.1460-1464) by Rogier van der Weyden will be restored in a specially built studio in the exhibition space of the Mauritshuis. The Lamentation is the oldest painting in the Mauritshuis and the only work by the Flemish master in a Dutch museum.

Beginning June 14, 2018The Lamentation of Christ (c.1460-1464) by Rogier van der Weyden will be restored in a specially built studio in the exhibition space of the Mauritshuis. The Lamentation is the oldest painting in the Mauritshuis and the only work by the Flemish master in a Dutch museum. Visitors will discover the technical and art historical research into the painting. A rare loan from the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence will also be on view. Not only will the treatment recover the magnificent colours with which the masterpiece was painted, but the Mauritshuis also expects to learn more about the artwork’s history.

The Lamentation of Christ needs to be restored, because the painting's varnish has yellowed over the course of many years. As a result, the work’s bright colours no longer come into their own. The treatment will remove previous restorations (retouches), which have also discoloured over time. The restoration, which is expected to be completed at the end of 2018, will reveal the masterpiece’s original, radiant colours.

The project will be carried out in full public view by a team of specialists from the Mauritshuis; it will offer a rare glimpse behind the scenes of a conservation studio. Visitors will be eye-witnesses to the process of restoration and its results. The presentation will offer background about the many aspects of technical research, such as: infrared research (which offers information about, for example, the underdrawing); X-rays; and the analysis of paint samples. The display will also offer arthistorical background about the painting, answering questions such as: who was Rogier van der Weyden and for whom could he have painted this altarpiece?

The Mauritshuis has a venerable tradition of conducting restoration projects in public. Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and his View of Delft were both treated in a specially built studio in 1994. Carel Fabritius's Goldfinch was researched and restored in public in 2004. Jan Steen's Doctor’s Visit followed in 2011. The Mauritshuis presented the results of a long-term research and restoration project into Rembrandt’s Saul and David in the 2015 exhibition entitled Rembrandt? The Case of Saul and David. In the spring of 2018, Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring underwent technical research in a temporary studio in the museum’s Golden Room. These projects aim to involve visitors to the Mauritshuis in a crucial, but often hidden, aspect of the museum’s core activities: the care and research of the collection. 

Rogier van der Weyden (and studio), The Lamentation of Christ, c. 1460-1464, Mauritshuis, Den Haag
(oil on panel, 80.6 x 130.1 cm)

The presentation includes a very special loan: Roger van der Weyden’s Entombment of Christ (1460-1464). This painting, from the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, will be on show for the first time in the Netherlands. The two altarpieces have only once before been on display together in an exhibition, and then briefly.

The painting technique of the Van der Weyden from the Uffizi is similar to that of the Mauritshuis Lamentation. This is also true for the preparatory drawing under the paint surface. There are also significant differences: the execution and detailing of the Uffizi painting are in some respects more refined. We also know more about the Italian patron of the Van der Weyden from Florence, whereas the donor on the Mauritshuis panel (the kneeling bishop) is still unknown. The comparison of the two works in the presentation will be revealing.


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