Revealing a Mexican Masterpiece: The Virgin of Valvanera, showcases a painting from the DAM's Spanish Colonial art collection attributed to Cristóbal de Villalpando. This large-scale oil painting made in colonial Mexico around 1700 recently underwent conservation funded by a grant from Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project.
The subject of The Virgin of Valvanera is European in origin and derives from a legend of a statue of the Virgin hidden in a tree during an invasion in the area of Valvanera, Spain. Villalpando is considered the most accomplished artist of the colonial period in Mexico and a pioneer in developing a unique painting style decidedly divergent from European traditions.
There are only five artworks in American museums attributed to this artist, two of which (including The Virgin of Valvanera) are in the DAM’s collection. When the painting entered the museum’s collection in 2008, a condition report indicated its overall condition was fair but with many evident problems, including paint losses, water damage, rippling canvas, old restorations, and discolored varnish.
A grant from Bank of America as part of the company’s global Art Conservation Project made the critical conservation possible on The Virgin of Valvanera. Conservators spent approximately 1,500 hours working on the project that included technical analysis and treatment, and even borrowing the Denver Zoo’s mobile x-ray unit, normally reserved for patients like giraffes and river hippos. Conservators were able to learn more about Villalpando’s materials and working methods through scientific analysis. Additional research involved meeting with Mexican painting baroque period specialists in Mexico City, and visiting several relevant sites.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website