LACMA has been awarded a grant from the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund for the conservation of the museum’s recent acquisition, Pietá (c.1720), by the 18th-century Bolivian artist Melchor Pérez Holguín (c.1660–c.1732). With the grant, LACMA's Conservation Center will scientifically analyze and restore the painting. Established in 1988, TEFAF is an international organization that organizes three art fairs annually, focusing on fine art, antiques, and design.
Pietá, with its lavish application of gold (brocateado)—a technique generally associated with the Cuzco School but also used throughout the Hispanic world—reveals how Holguín skillfully absorbed various artistic traditions, representing a confluence of European and local styles, to create his own version of this canonical subject. Considering its age, the work is in good condition, but it requires a careful restoration, which is in progress under Joseph Fronek, head of Paintings Conservation.
LACMA’s scientific team has begun a complete analysis to document the painting’s materials, techniques, and its condition. Various scientific means—including macro XRF scanning (MA-XRF) that will result in elemental mapping of pigment application—will help to determine how the artist intended the paint to appear.
Following restoration, Pietá will make its debut in LACMA’s upcoming exhibition The Eye of the Imagination: LACMA’s Collection of Spanish Colonial Art, curated by Ilona Katzew and scheduled to open in 2021. The accompanying catalogue will include an in-depth scholarly analysis of the painting. Learn more about this exciting acquisition!