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TEFAF supports restoration and conservation projects at museums in Lisbon and Boston
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga Capela das Albertas.

HELVOIRT.- The Executive Committee of The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF) has awarded a total of €50,000 to the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (MNAA), Portugal and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), USA, to support their distinct restoration and conservation projects. The funds will support the conservation of ‘Capela das Albertas’, an integral part pf the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga and a striking example of a Portuguese ‘gold church’. In the USA it will support the restoration of Portrait of a Woman with the Gold Chain, by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, one half of a pair of oval paintings gifted to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) in the late 19th century. The portrait has been on near constant view and has not been treated for 50 years. Each project aims to present to visitors the original beauty of each work, preserving cultural heritage for generations to come.

The TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund was set up in 2012 to help museums and institutions worldwide restore and conserve works of art in their collections. It is one of a selection of initiatives run by TEFAF that demonstrates the Foundation’s ongoing dedication to supporting and protecting cultural heritage. Museums and institutions that have attended TEFAF Maastricht are eligible to apply for the grants, which are awarded by an independent panel of experts.

Presentations about each project will be displayed at TEFAF Maastricht, the world’s leading fine art and antiques Fair, which takes place from the 10-18 March at the MECC (Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre), Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Museu Nacional de Arte, Portugal
The museum is housed in the ‘Palácio Alvor’. The oldest part of the palace complex is the socalled ‘Capela de las Albertas’, a female chapel of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites. The first of its kind, the chapel was founded between 1583 and 1598 and, together with the palace, which is linked via a sacristy, is an example of an Iberian ‘convent-palace’. Alongside these two components is a later, 20th-century extension, which comprises the whole of what is now the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga.

‘Capela de las Albertas’, is a striking example of a Portuguese ‘gold church’, notable for the characteristic contrast between the simplicity of its exterior architecture and the sumptuous interior. The inside of the church combines gilt carvings and tiles in a strikingly harmonious whole that encompasses architecture, painting, sculpture and other decorative arts.

The chapel is decorated with tiles from different periods of production, progressing from 16thcentury Spanish-made tiles to 17th-and 18th- century Portuguese ones. The sacristy is covered with single figure tiles presenting the highest quality from the last part of the 17th century. The aim of the project is to conserve and restore these tiles, enriching the offer to the public and enabling new readings of the museum displays.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), USA
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) houses an extraordinary collection that encompasses nearly 450,000 works of art. In this collection is a pair of oval portraits: Portrait of a Man Wearing a Black Hat (1634) and Portrait of a Woman with a Gold Chain (1634), both by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 – 1669). The museum intends to restore both works by Rembrandt and with the support of TEFAF for the restoration of Portrait of a Woman with a Gold Chain, the museum has committed to the treatment of Portrait of a Man Wearing a Black Hat.

Although Portrait of a Woman with a Gold Chain is structurally stable, the appearance of the work is problematic. The painting has not had any treatment for around 50 years, and there are now multiple uneven layers of varnish and passages of clumsy retouching which are obscuring the paint surface. In addition to being unevenly cleaned in the past, there is also a recently applied thick layer of a synthetic (PVA) varnish that has become very gray and under-saturated over time, further obscuring the portrait.

The work can be cleaned to remove the old discolored layers of varnish and retouching that currently distort the work’s appearance. The work will be then restored with the aim of returning the portrait’s appearance to a state closer to that originally intended by the artist.

The completion of the project will reveal the quality and beauty of this remarkable portrait. It will also reveal a great deal about the materials and techniques used in the work and its companion work, which will be shared with the public and scholarly colleagues.

The international panel of experts which made the decision for the 2018 grant of the Fund was chaired by Professor Dr Henk van Os, former director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, who is Chairman of the Antiquairs Vetting Committees at TEFAF. Its other members are Rachel Kaminsky, a private art dealer from New York who was formerly head of the Old Master paintings department at Christie’s, David Bull, a paintings restorer, and Dr Kenson Kwok, the former and founding director of the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Peranakan Museum in Singapore.

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