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Colonial Painting Found in Palacio de Bellas Artes Restored
Detail of the mural painting from the 17th century. Photo: Julio Martínez/CNCPC INAH.
MEXICO CITY.- Specialists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) restored 40 square meters of a 17th century mural painting discovered in the subsoil of Palacio de Bellas Artes, in Mexico City, during reconditioning work conducted at the building.

Fragments of mural painting were located on the rests of a wall of the former convent of Visitacion de Maria Santisima, which existed until mid-19th century in the terrain occupied to present by the Palacio de Bellas Artes. A fountain was discovered as well in the northwest area of the former convent.

Claudia Salgado Ricaño, restorer at INAH, informed that the finding occurred in December 2009 during the excavation conducted to build a cistern at the eastern patio.

“We found decorative elements in excellent conservation state of the Convent of the Visitation of Holy Mary, built in 1670 by the Order of Saint Clare”.

The specialist from the National Coordination for Cultural Heritage Conservation mentioned that this convent was occupied until 1861 and demolished to free the terrain and construct what today is known as Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Bases of columns, a fountain, and remains of the walls of 3 rooms at the limits of the convent were found. Rests of walls that conserved original mural painting sum up 40 square meters, including a frieze with floral motives, angels with censers, birds, medallions and other religious motives.

“Chemical analyses revealed the mural was painted with temple and a palette of red and white colors, a popular technique at the time”.

The specialist declared that although the painting and convent present a good conservation state, restoration work took place in the first trimester of 2010, including consolidation of the fountain tiles and the painting, using lime and other inorganic material.

Claudia Salgado mentioned that samples of paintings were analyzed to determine pigments used, with the aim of learning more about mural painting in 17th century feminine convents.

“Using state-of-the-art technology owned by the institute, we made architectural survey of the space, allowing creation of a scale model and/or digital reconstruction”.

Architectonic vestiges were buried again with conservation purposes; “they were covered with protextil, an impermeable textile, and then covered with tepetate (porous rock) and a lower compression level”.

Restorer mentioned that a text regarding this work is being prepared, to be included in a memoir of the Palacio de Bellas Artes remodeling. The text will contribute to documentation and study of 17th century mural painting in nun convents at Mexico City, an important theme for restoration and history of art, she concluded.

Mexico | National Institute of Anthropology and History | Claudia Salgado Ricaño | Palacio de Bellas Artes |

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