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Linen that protected Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes' remains restored by specialists
The linen, 72 cms [28.34 inches] by 73 cms [28.74 inches], was subject to a fiber analysis in the laboratories of the National School of Conservation, Restoration and Museography. This investigation shed some light about the death of the conquistador in 1547.

Translated by: Cristina Perez Ayala

MEXICO CITY.- A linen that protected for more than a century the remains of Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes was restored by specialists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) of Mexico. This piece, elaborated with white linen and black silk embroidery, belongs to the National Museum of History (MNH) of Mexico, at Castillo de Chapultepec.

The linen, used during the funeral rites of the osseous remains of Cortes, was intervened as part of the systematic conservation project made by the museum to celebrate their 70th anniversary. The attention to the textile was made in collaboration with the students from the School of Conservation and Restoration of the West (ECRO).

Restorers Veronica Kuhliger and Laura Garcia were in charge of the linen’s intervention, as well as the historical investigation that was conducted as a result of this intervention. This investigation shed some light about the death of the conquistador in 1547.

Kuhliger explained that previous to this intervention a diagnosis was made that determined that the most deteriorated part of the linen was at the center, given the contact it had with the skeleton; “we observed stains, missing parts, wrinkles, deformations in the joint and a decrease in the resistance of the textile in the area”.

After said report, they made a conservation proposal in which they suggested the feasibility of cleaning the linen with a special kind of treatment. Once it had been cleaned, they placed a dyed cotton support, similar to the original. Meanwhile, the black silk embroidery, —which makes it certain to be a funerary handkerchief— was removed in order to treat it separately, and once stabilized it was reintegrated to the original piece.

The linen, 72 cms [28.34 inches] by 73 cms [28.74 inches], was subject to a fiber analysis in the laboratories of the National School of Conservation, Restoration and Museography (ENCRyM), with the collaboration of biologist Gabriela Cruz, and it was determined that it was a very fine linen, and that the black embroidery was made from silk threads.

The piece has at the four corners phytomorphic figures that create an undulating cross at the center which alludes to the Christian religion and the use for which the linen was created.

The Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes was buried for the first time in Castilleja de Cuesta in 1547, near Seville, where he spent the last years of his life; afterwards his remains were transferred to the New Spain, were they started a long pilgrimage until his last resting place at Jesus Nazareno’s church at the Historical Center in Mexico City.

In 1947, the linen was transferred to the newly inaugurated National Museum of History in Mexico, and has been kept in the collection deposit since then.

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