Juan de Mesa_Master of Passion - Page 114

The colour of the loincloth was made with lead white, plus some
grains of quartz and red earths. The pigments identified in the
hair are red earths, umbers and calcite. Those in the cross, red
earths and calcite.
State of Conservation and Diagnosis9
In general, we can say the support of the sculpture does not
present major problems. Nevertheless, there are some points to
note which include:
· Losses to the support. These were probably caused
accidentally by knocks to the loincloth and crown and, on
the left-hand side between the ear and the beard, there is a
small piece missing from a lock of hair.
· Losses of shape. On the right arm and tips of the toes
small losses are visible, also caused by knocks.
· Alterations and deterioration in the polychromy:
· Burn damage to the polychromy (fig. 83). The left-hand
side of the face is the area most affected. Heat has caused
the loss of the whole surface layer and the remaining
polychromy is very porous and lacks cohesiveness, so that
all the subtle details in this area are quite lost. Heat has
Fig. 83 Juan de Mesa, Cristo de la Agonía, detail of burn damage to left
also caused blistering. Burn damage to the polychromy is
side of face.
irreversible and means that the affected areas are extremely
Fig. 84 Juan de Mesa, Cristo de la Agonía, detail of hands where contact with cross prevented application of varnishes.
fragile. The areas which have not been damaged by heat,
fortunately most of the work, adhere well to the support.
A peculiar type of cracking has been generated in the flesh areas,
since the general direction of the breaks in the layers is distinctively
horizontal, the opposite direction to the grain of the wood. This
does not occur in the polychromed surface of the loincloth where
there is hardly any cracking. The cross is polychromed in the same
sequence as the figure: a coat of glue, ground layer and colour.
The pigments used in the flesh tones as identified in the laboratory
analyses are:
· Lead white and red earth grains in the first layer for rough
· Finishing layer, lead white with grains of quartz, calcite
and red earths. In smaller amounts, carmine and vermilion
are also present
· Blood, red lake and lead white
· Binding agent with an oil and protein base.
· Small losses to the coloured layer have been found all over
the work. Most of the examples on the figure are found in
The first layer of varnish is thick, amber-coloured and does
Restoration Methodology and Criteria
not cover the whole sculpture. It is applied unevenly, forming
The aim in restoring Cristo de la Agonía was to enable interpretation
· Slight rubbing or leaning of the figure against the cross has
caused loss in the priming and coloured layers.
trickles. This layer of varnish might have been intended to
of the artwork, passing it on to the future in its entirety and
give the work a more aged appearance, as the historical report
with all its cultural value. Research supplied the means to create
· The main repaintings are found on the head. These were
thick and did not match the original tones. The crown of
appropriate guidelines. Restoration was carried out within the
the joins between pieces in the support.
framework of the following general and specific criteria:
thorns was also repainted with a uniform earthy colour, as
The second layer is a coloured varnish which lent the sculpture
was the hair.
blackish tones and, like the first layer, was applied unevenly and
Gaps in the colour were filled, using a reconstruction technique that
is easy to discern at first sight, never incorporating either imagined
· As many as three layers of varnish on top of the polychromy
have been identified. All the coats of varnish were applied
areas ex novo or elements which determine perception of the work.
with the figure already attached to the cross. The backs of
The top layer is very subtle and visible with UV lighting. It was
the hands in contact with the cross retain the polychromy in
perhaps applied when the work was prepared for exhibition in
In filling in areas lost to the volumes of the work, the same criteria
its original state (fig. 84). Layers of varnish added at different
Seville in 1983.
were followed. The case of the reincorporation of the volumes lost
from the crown of thorns was carefully considered but it was clear
times coloured the polychromy and not only degraded the
original colour values but also covered the polychromy, thus
Dust, soot and wax have accumulated inside the cracking,
that insufficient information for its reconstruction was available. A
detracting from the quality of the carving.
making it more obvious to the eye.
reconstruction would involve the subjective interpretation of shapes.


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