March 6, 2021

This is how "Susana y los viejos" is restored, by Rubens, a naked scandal


"Susana y los viejos" (16th century) is one of the most representative works of Rubens (1577 – 1640) and of the ten most important works that the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando holds. It is a painting that brings together some of the painter's greatest characteristics, such as vitality, the energetic expression of movement, the chromaticism and the polychrome richness that made him the artist we know today; an artist whose name has been echoed again through a process of thorough cleaning and reintegration of the pictorial layer. The restoration of the painting has been carried out thanks to the generous donations of the guests to the award ceremony of the Ibero-American Patronage Awards, organized by the Callia Foundation and held last February at the Teatro Real in Madrid. In the words of its president, Carmen Reviriego, "we are very happy to be able to contribute to the restoration of a masterpiece, part of our heritage, which until now was not possible to admire in all its splendor".

"I believe that art is a fundamental tool to transmit the values ​​of our civilization from generation to generation. It is also to reaffirm our culture. Supporting art, I think that I help the world to turn in a more beautiful way, "continues Reviriego. The prizes of the patronage have been conceived to promote the art market and, as she herself tells us: "What is fundamental for us is that the patrons who supported this restoration were the first time they donated. They were new patrons and that is very important because it means a cultural change. It means that these people are committed to art, which is the mission of Fundación Callia. "

The work, restored by Silvia Viana and Judith Gasca, both National Award for Restoration, was the first one acquired by the Academy in 1778. The order came from Carlos III and a total of 60,000 reales was invested in the painting, with the purpose of influencing in the training of the young artists of the moment. "As it is a picture that we are still working on, we have discovered a series of data, such as the name of the person who drew up the framework, which is an exceptional framework, and which will be published once the investigation is concluded," says the director of the Academy, Fernando de Terán Troyano.

The restoration work lasted several months and, due to the state of fragility in which the piece was, had to be intervened in the same showroom. In this way, museum visitors had the opportunity to witness the process that began with a series of previous analyzes, made from digital plates in X-rays. Thanks to this system, the degradation of the color by oxidation was recorded. "It could be contamination by the heating of the 19th century and that of our time as well. There are several types of pollution superimposed on each other, "says Trojan. As the process progressed, details that were previously hidden, such as the clothes of the old people, began to be perceived and the quality of the chromatism was returned, the main characteristic of Rubens' masterpieces.

Rubens painted this painting during his Italian period, before turning thirty years of age and, for this, he was inspired by chapter XIII of the book of the prophet Daniel. It is about the subject of the Susana caste, in which the husband leaves the home for a while, so that she, thinking that she is alone, prepares to shower naked when, suddenly, she is assaulted. "It is a gang rape," remarks Troyano. When resisting this situation, they accuse her of adultery, but Daniel, witness of the moment, declares that this is not the case. "The subject that Rubens gathers has been treated by almost all the painters of the north, like Rembrandt and Van Dyc, or the Italians, Tiziano and Tintoretto, among others. It is common because it is one of the few excuses they had within the biblical theme to represent the female nude, "continues Troyano.

"Rubens was the most international artist of his time because, in addition to being an artist, he was a diplomat and traveled a lot. This initiative goes from that, going to internationalize. With it we seek to modernize Spanish society in the social commitment to art, "says Reviriego, who also adds:" Rubens had a large number of important patrons and today we need patrons. What we have tried with this gesture is to encourage and transmit to Spanish society that need to support art. We are below our Anglo-Saxon references and yes, Spanish patronage is necessary ".

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