He Meadow it would not be the same without the work of El Bosco. It is one of the most important assets of the gallery together with Velázquez and Goya and, the room where it was ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’It was one of the most visited. More than 7,000 visitors a day in precovid 19 times. So much so that it was uncomfortable to approach a painting that continues to generate all kinds of theories, fascination and mystery and in which what is truly important are the details. If ‘Las Meninas’ can be seen from afar without losing an iota of its grandeur, in this case it is quite an experience to be able to approach and look carefully and calmly each of the tiny scenes that appear in the three panels of the work.
For this reason, those responsible for the museum undertook a comprehensive remodeling of room 56A of the Villanueva building dedicated to Bosco. On the one hand, they wanted to optimize the space and also give it a new, more modern and diaphanous concept so that the paintings could shine with greater forcefulness.
For this they have manufactured a new system of (metal) supports for the three triptychs on display (‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’, ‘The Hay Wagon’ and ‘The Adoration of the Magi’), thus replacing the most bulky ones (spanning twice the space) that were built for the great 2016 monographic exhibition held for the V centenary of the artist’s death, which became the most visited in the museum’s history, with more of 600,000 people.
The recently inaugurated models are smaller, with a minimalist aesthetic and blend in with the new color of the room, a darker green that enhances the graphics and tones of the paintings. Raised platform allows for a more precise view from all angles (also of the external gates) and the elimination of the device in the form of a bathtub favors a contemplation in proximity, with the separation of a catenary. In addition, they are removable supports, which will facilitate the movement of the works, and that contain an internal compartment with a fire-retardant blanket as a cover that will protect the works in case of emergency, water, smoke, dust or fire, a measure that has to do with the new protocols for the implementation of the Collection Protection Plan.
Lighting is also another of the great novelties. A series of spotlights placed in strategic positions make it possible to restore sharpness to works without dark areas. The biggest technical challenge was the reverse of the wings, given the limitation of the angle of incidence, something that has been corrected thanks to projectors that concentrate the light in a square or rectangular shape to prevent the beam from scattering.
Closed during the pandemic
The El Bosco’s room had been closed since the health emergency forced the temporary closure of the Museum. During these months, the modernization of this very special space has accelerated, in which 6 of the 20 works attributed to the Flemish painter can be seen. In addition to the three triptychs we find the ‘Table of the Deadly Sins’ (which is exhibited in a new display case), ‘The extraction of the stone of madness’ and ‘The temptations of San Antonio Abad’, all of them acquired by the king Felipe II in the sixteenth century shortly after the death of the author and which became part of the Royal Spanish Collection that later would inherit El Prado.
When the Museum announced its reopening with the exhibition ‘Reencuentro’, it was already warned that ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ would not be part of it. Now it reappears in all its splendor in this new room where it becomes the protagonist and where finally the environment invites you to look closely. So that the visitor does not forget the importance of each one of these tiny elements, a 65 ”Samsung monitor allows them to see an animated succession of surprising details of the works exhibited in a larger format, as if a magnifying glass were applied to the painting.
“Bosco is important because he teaches us to stop and look”, said in the presentation Andrés Úbeda, Deputy Director of Conservation and Research of the Prado Museum. To look at the strangeness, the symbols, the creatures and the perverse fantasy of the scenes of Bosco that, perhaps, in these times of pandemic that we live, seem more disturbing than ever.