Rubens painting returns to Cummer Museum following conservation

A crown jewel in the collection of the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida has returned. The Lamentation of Christ by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) has returned to public view following extensive conservation. Work of the small masterpiece, about the size of notebook paper, was supported by a Bank of America Art Conservation Project grant awarded in 2019.

I have written previously about the critical role Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project has played in funding the essential conservation of artistic treasures from the very famous to very obscure, very large to very small.

This delicate work is the centerpiece of the Museum’s Baroque collection and the only painting by Rubens on display. The Lamentation of Christ is believed to have been painted during Rubens’ first trip to Italy and is an original work of art on copper. Radiographs and infra-red technology were used to reveal Rubens’ original intent for the painting and restorers went millimeter by millimeter to ensure no part of the original painting was damaged. The extra paint and varnish from past restoration attempts were removed and retouched, and the frame underwent restoration to repair the gold leaf and wooden structure.

“Restoration of this 400-year-old painting was extensive as there were structural problems with the frame as well as aesthetic problems from previous restoration attempts that led to surface discoloration,” Holly Keris, the Museum’s J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Chief Curator. said. “As this painting was part of the original bequest from Mrs. Cummer that created the Cummer Museum 60 years ago, its restoration in preparation for this important anniversary is all the more timely.”

The restoration process was led by ArtCare Conservation in Miami and began in January 2020.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Lamentation of Christ, on view at Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens.
Peter Paul Rubens, The Lamentation of Christ, on view at Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens.

“Institutions like the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens have the power to help their local economies by providing pathways to greater cultural understanding, as well as education,” Mark Bennett, President of Bank of America Jacksonville, said. “Providing the Museum with art conservation funding allowed the right experts and partners to breathe new life into TheLamentation of Christ, making it accessible for generations to come.”

The restoration of The Lamentation of Christ by Peter Paul Rubens is one of 22 Art Conservation Recipients in 10 countries and 11 U.S. cities, which received grant funding through the 2019 Bank of America Art Conservation Project. 

The Lamentation of Christ by Peter Paul Rubens is in select company as a 2019 recipient. The  selection of works being recognized as 2019 ACP recipients includes: The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh and The Bather by Paul Cezanne – The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Spring by Georgia O’Keeffe – Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe; and 10 large-scale assemblage paintings by Thornton Dial, Sr. – High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

The Bank of America Art Conservation Project provides grant funding to nonprofit cultural institutions throughout the world to conserve historically or culturally significant works of art that are in danger of deterioration. Since the Art Conservation Project began in 2010, Bank of America has provided grants for more than 170 projects in 33 countries on six continents to conserve paintings, sculptures, and archaeological and architectural pieces that are critically important to cultural heritage and the history of art.

The Art Conservation Project is a key element of Bank of America’s program of arts support worldwide, and part of the company’s environmental, social and governance program. Bank of America believes in the power of the arts to help economies thrive, educate and enrich societies, and create greater cultural understanding. The program includes loans of its private art collection to museums at no cost, sponsorships, and grants to arts organizations for arts education, as well as the preservation of cultural treasures. For more information, please visit the Art Conservation Project website.

The entire restoration process was documented and photographed for educational purposes, including sharing restoration techniques and the importance of the art restoration process. The fascinating restoration video is a main feature in Art Connections, the Museum’s education center.

Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project supported work on the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens Rubens painting.

Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

For 60 years, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens has been committed to engaging and inspiring through the arts, gardens, and education. A permanent collection of more than 5,000 objects and historic gardens on a riverfront campus offers nearly 150,000 annual visitors a truly unique experience on the First Coast.

Nationally recognized education programs serve adults and children of all abilities, and is committed to ensuring that diversity and inclusion are woven into the fabric of the Museum. For further information, including hours, visit www.cummermuseum.org.

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