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Restoration of "Virgen de la Asuncion" 17th Century Painting Continues
Virgen de la Asuncion (Xochimilco) which is being restored by INAH. Photo: Melitón Tapia/INAH.

MEXICO CITY. Known as “Xochimilco Cathedral”, San Bernardino de Siena Parish will receive back the restored oil painting “Virgen de la Asuncion”, one of the few Colonial paintings with its support united with maguey fiber, a technique that was not used later on.

Painted on board in 17th century by Juan Sanchez Salmeron, one of the greatest New Spain art representatives, the work is part of the aforementioned temple altarpiece, and is being restored by National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) experts since January 2009.

After 4 years of negotiations between the Institute, community and religious authorities, the painting was sent to INAH National Coordination of Cultural Heritage Conservation (CNCPC) Easel Painting Workshop.

Restorer Lucia de la Parra, responsible of restoration of the 90 centimeters long painting, explained the conservation state of the piece: “it was affected by insects’ attack, which harmed the wood and caused pictorial layer loss”.

Formed by 3 planks and 3 crosspieces, the New Spain artwork shows Virgin of Assumption staring at the sky, covered with a dark green cloak, with angels and cherubs represented in the bottom of the painting, against an ochre colored sky.

The special characteristic of this work is its back support, manufactured with maguey fiber; according to the specialist, it was not a common technique, and fell into disuse. Few examples remain to present with this feature.

“Maguey fibers were used in the back to keep planks and crosspieces united, giving the assemblage great resistance” commented De la Parra.

Before beginning restoration, “analyses were conducted in order to know information such as previous interventions, alien material, and location of cloth inserts”, commented the CNCPC restorer.

Fumigation to eliminate insects and larvae was the first step taken. Then deep cleaning took place, followed by surface stabilization.

The most delicate work was consolidating pictorial layer: “minor painting detachments were reintegrated, and cloth inserts retired”. Damage was covered with calcium carbonate and a Colonial red-colored oily base was applied before chromatic reintegration began, which according to Lucia de la Parra is being completed color by color.

San Bernardino de Siena Temple is one of the most important churches at the south of Mexico City, and it is located in 24-bis Nuevo Leon Street, Santa Crucita, Xochimilco.

National Institute of Anthropology and History | Xochimilco | Cathedral | Virgin | painting | restoration |

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