Reattribution and Restoration of a Painting by Juan Bautista Maíno

1. Juan Bautista Maíno (1581-1614)
Conversion of Saint Paul
Oil on Canvas - 244.5 x 157 cm
Barcelona, Museu Nacional de Art de Catalunya
Photo : MNAC

6/7/12 - Restoration - Barcelona, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya - Juan Bautista Maíno, one of the first Spanish painters influenced by Caravaggio after a stay in Rome from 1605 to around 1610, has recently appeared in headlines several times, notably after a monographic exhibition at the Prado in 2009 (see article, in French) and the very recent acquisition made by the Louvre of one of his masterpieces (see news item of 11/7/11, in French).

The Madrid exhibition presented a study for a Conversion of Saint Paul belonging to a private collection. The curator in charge of drawings and engravings at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona, Francesc Quílez Corella, saw in this small painting the composition of the altarpiece acquired by the museum in 1952 but since then kept in storage after having been seriously damaged. Indeed, the work had been placed in a municipal office where a fire broke out [1]. Covered in soot, with severe blistering in spots, it was barely visible and needed a thorough restoration.
The necessary work, which rendered its original quality to the canvas, was carried out by a museum team, an operation funded thanks to the bank BNP-Paribas which contributed a total of 30,000€ [2].

Francesc Quílez Corella dates the canvas to around 1612-1614 [3] : Maíno distanced himself here significantly from Caravaggio’s influence. His interpretation of the Conversion of Saint Paul (ill. 1) is in fact fundamentally different from that of the Lombard master in the painting of the same subject held at Santa Maria del Popolo. The celestian vision with the angels in the clouds and their downward movement may partly recall the one inserted by Caravaggio in The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew but in a rather different style alluding more to the Carracci school. The clear and luminous tone of this painting no doubt explains the attribution to Orazio Gentilischi previously presented at one time, after that of José Vergara, a painter of the 18th century (see article, in French), and under whose name it joined the museum but then abandoned.

2. Juan Bautista Maíno (1581-1614)
Portrait of Friar Alonso de Santo Tomás, 1648-1649
Oil on Canvas - 90.5 x 61.5 cm
Barcelona, Museu Nacional de Arte de Catalunya
Photo : Didier Rykner

Finally, we would like to point out that the Catalan museum owns another canvas by Maíno exhibited in its galleries, a late work representing the Portrait of Friar Alonso de Santo Tomás (ill. 2).

Frances Quílez Corella and Mireia Mestre, La conversió de sant Pau. Atribució i restauració. La recuperació d’una pintura per al MNAC, 2012, MNAC,/Fondation BNP-Paribas, 32. ISBN : 978-898-0432-54-2.

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 16 juillet 2012


[1] Once again, this incident proves that a painting belonging to a museum should, except in exceptional cases justified by its history, be held in said establishment. Although a museum may of course fall victim to a fire, the safety of a collection can be better ensured there than in a municipal building not intended for the purpose.

[2] 25,000€ paid by the BNP-Paribas Foundation and 5,000€ by BNP-Paribas Spain.

[3] A short pamphlet in Spanish, Catalan and English was published for the occasion.

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