The restored treasures of Valencia Cathedral


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The predella of the Lazarus of the Valencia Cathedral -a singular work of Valencian heritage consisting of various scenes, such as the passage of the rich man and poor Lazarus, Christ the Man of Sorrows and the resurrection of Lazarus- has recovered chromatism thanks to a restoration which, in addition, has allowed to know new data about the piece.

The Department of Easel Painting and Polychrome Sculpture of the Valencian Institute of Conservation, Restoration and Research (IVCR+i) has carried out the action, the results of which have been presented at a press conference by the director of the technical body, Gemma Contreras, and the dean-president of Valencia Cathedral, Vicente Fontestad.

The piece was part of the disappeared altarpiece of Saint Lazarus, attributed to Nicolás Falcó, a Valencian painter active in Valencia between 1493 and 1530, and suffered alterations due to the deterioration of the materials and the fire that occurred in the archbishop’s palace in 1936.

In fact, part of its structure was burned, with the consequent loss of specific areas, and, in addition, the high temperatures to which the panel was subjected had greatly affected the original materials used in both the polychromy and the gilding.

Prior to the intervention of the work, a series of scientific studies through which it has been possible to determine the materials and execution technique used by the artist. These studies have been relevant to be able to undertake, with full guarantee, the restoration of the piece.

Restoration has been done in several phases of intervention, combining the processes carried out in the polychromy with those used in the gilding. With regard to the intervention in painting, several phases have been decisive. On the one hand, the cleaning phase, which posed a great challenge, due to the fact that the pictorial film was covered by a large number of deposits of different nature distributed in a very irregular way, in addition to different restoration interventions. For this, different physical-chemical cleaning phases were carried out.

On the other hand, we opted for a discernible chromatic reintegration of the original through the ‘rigatino’ technique. The IVCR+i relied on the photographic documentation kept by the Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic, prior to the fire. In this way, those altered or lost areas could be restored, returning a formal and compositional unity to the work.

As far as the gilding is concerned, the intervention was complex due to the successive interventions of regilding that the moldings presented. As in painting, different phases of physical-chemical cleaning. Once these cleanings were undertaken, it was observed that the original gilding was barely preserved, so it was decided to carry out a conservative restoration of the work with specific interventions that would restore an aesthetic unity to the gilding.

Books and letter of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

The restoration carried out by the IVCR+i of two 15th century factory books, specifically from the years 1475 and 1476, and an autograph letter from Saint Ignatius of Loyola. The first factory book is made up of two files: one corresponding to the year 1399 and the other covering the period 1400-1402. The second book is made up of six books covering the years 1404, 1405, 1406, 1407-1408, 1408-1409 and 1405.

Factory books contain detailed information on the accounts of a building from which a multitude of subsidiary information can be extracted, such as the activity carried out, the works of art that commissioned or restored, the artists who were commissioned, etc.

the letter of Saint Ignatius of LoyolaApart from being a unique document because it is an autograph letter from the saintly founder of the Society of Jesus (1491-1556), it is also a relic of the same.

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