When a couple of years ago, the restorer Lucia Martinez looked at the canvas The death of Lucano, by José Garnelo (Enguera, Valencia, 1866-Montilla, Córdoba, 1944), at the top of some stairs of the Cervantes school in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz), he feared that the work would be unrecoverable. At the stroke of student balonazos, the composition, of 5 by 3.4 meters, presented tears so abundant and bulky that one of the essential figures of the narrative, the slave, had been completely torn off. This aside from the imposing dirt and inappropriate repainting.
The desolation of the workshop expert at the Museo del Prado was softened when she learned that the director of the school kept a couple of tatters of paint in his chest of drawers. With those recovered pieces and a photograph of the time, Martínez felt able to transfer the work to the Prado and proceed to his intervention. After half a year of meticulous work, the work again looks like when it was painted in 1887, when José Garnelo, former director of the Prado, was only 21 years old. The work, property of the Prado, can be seen for two months in room 61 of the Villanueva building and will then be deposited in the Garnelo de Montilla Museum (Córdoba), where the Valencian artist died. The cost of work, carried out in collaboration with Iberdrola, exceeds 30,000 euros, although that amount does not qualify the skill of the Prado workshop, considered the best in the world, in the words of its deputy director, Andrés Úbeda.
The work is a theatrical scenography very taste of the time. Exposed next to the also monumental The death of Seneca, by Manuel Domínguez, narrates the suicide of the poet Marco Anneo Lucano after having been condemned to death for having participated in the conspiracy against Nero. Javier Barón, head of the Painting Conservation Area of the 19th Century, explains that deaths due to dignity, like the one depicted in this painting, is one of the great themes of nineteenth-century artists who evoked the classical world. A great example of similar pictorial narrative is Death of Lucrezia, by Eduardo Rosales, which hangs at a short distance from The death of Lucano.
Baron has stated that, despite the fact that the painting was made by Garnelo at the age of 21, it is the most important of its production "for the harmony of the whole piece and for the color, for the quality of the fabrics and the skins of the characters and for the treatment of light. "
The death of Lucano it is part of what is known as the scattered Prado, all those works owned by the museum that are in temporary deposits in museums or public institutions, such as embassies or universities. According to Andrés Úbeda, head of Conservation of Italian and French Painting (until 1700), 3,450 pieces are found in administrative buildings. Of these, 2,818 are paintings, 176 sculptures and the rest are decorative works. The idea of Miguel Falomir, director of the museum, is to concentrate most of that exterior Prado in museums throughout Spain, because it is the best way for them to be seen by the public.