Revealing a Mexican Masterpiece: The Virgin of Valvanera at the Denver Art Museum in September

Bank of America Art Conservation Project funds more than 300-year-old painting restoration

DENVER Aug. 22, 2017 The Denver Art Museum (DAM) is proud to present Revealing a Mexican Masterpiece: The Virgin of Valvanera, showcasing a recently conserved painting from its world-renowned Spanish Colonial Art collection attributed to Cristóbal de Villalpando. With conservation work funded by a grant from Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project, The Virgin of Valvanera will be on display from Sept. 19, 2017 – Feb. 18, 2018 in the Dietler Gallery of Western Art on level two of the Hamilton Building.

Cristóbal de Villalpando, The Virgin of Valvanera, about 1710 Cristóbal de Villalpando, The Virgin of Valvanera, about 1710, Mexico. Oil paint on canvas. Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 2008.832.

The Virgin of Valvanera is a large-scale oil-on-canvas painting, spanning 6.6-by-5-feet, made in colonial Mexico circa 1700 by Villalpando. 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, as a larger exhibition on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art proves. There are only five artworks in American museums attributed to this artist, two of which (including the 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. The painting had not received any subsequent treatment and remained in a condition that prevented its display or loan prior to the work of museum conservators.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to restore and display this important painting that helps to tell the story of old world legends brought to the new world, thanks to our partners at Bank of America,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “This artwork, which has been in the collection for years, but unable to be displayed due to its condition, highlights the history of colonial Mexico through its cultural products.”

A grant from Bank of America as part of the company’s global Art Conservation Project made the critical conservation undertaking possible on the Virgin of Valvanera. Work began in earnest to study and treat the painting in September 2016 by the DAM’s conservation team. Conservators spent approximately 1,500 hours working on the conservation project that included technical analysis and treatment, even borrowing the Denver Zoo’s mobile x-ray unit, normally reserved for patients like giraffes and river hippos, as part of this unique art restoration and conservation process. Conservators were able to learn more about Villalpando’s materials and working methods through scientific analysis. This kind of information about Villalpando’s work is sparse, making research and analysis all the more valuable as a significant contribution to the field of study.

Additional conservation treatment research involved sending a team from the DAM to Mexico City, Mexico, in March of 2017. There, the team met with Mexican painting baroque period specialists, as well as visited several relevant sites, including the Catedral Metropolitana, the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, the Museo Franz Mayer, Convento de las Vizcaínas and the Museo Soumaya.

“Bank of America is proud to fund The Virgin of Valvanera because it allows us to preserve the efforts of artists throughout time and across the globe,” said Jodi Rolland, Colorado State and Denver Market President for Bank of America. “Art serves as a record of cultural and human achievement and experience, and is something that should be honored with care and learning. This collaboration between Bank of America and the Denver Art Museum strengthens one of Denver’s most beloved cultural institutions and helps make the arts more accessible in our community.”

Spanish Colonial Art at the Denver Art Museum

Notable for its cultural and temporal range and artistic quality, the Spanish Colonial collection at the DAM is the most comprehensive collection in the United States and one of the best in the world. Spanning three and a half centuries (c. 1492-1850), the collection of over 3,000 objects represents the diverse cultures and geographic areas of Latin America including Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Chile and the southwestern United States. Containing paintings, sculpture, silver and gold work, furniture, ivory and alabaster objects, jewelry, textiles, ceramics and other decorative and utilitarian objects, the collection is especially strong in Mexican colonial paintings from the Frederick and Jan Mayer collection and South American paintings from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, Freyer and Stapleton collections.

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About the Denver Art Museum

The DAM is an educational, nonprofit resource that sparks creative thinking and expression through transformative experiences with art. Its holdings reflect the city and region—and provide invaluable ways for the community to learn about cultures from around the world. Metro citizens support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), a unique funding source serving hundreds of metro Denver arts, culture and scientific organizations. For museum information, call 720-865-5000 or visit www.denverartmuseum.org.

About Bank of America

At Bank of America, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is critical to fulfilling our core purpose of making people’s financial lives better. A commitment to growing the business responsibly is embedded in every aspect of our company, from policies and practices to services, products, governance and employee benefits. An important part of that commitment is forming strong partnerships across sectors, including nonprofit organizations serving community needs, bringing its collective networks and expertise to achieve greater impact. The company is proud of its employees’ volunteer efforts, support of diversity and inclusion, and environmental and social responsibility. Across the company, focus is placed on simplifying banking and investing, advancing better money habits and making an impact in communities around the world. Learn more at www.bankofamerica.com/about and follow Bank of America on Twitter at @BankofAmerica.

About The Bank of America Art Conservation Project

The Bank of America Art Conservation Project is a unique program that provides grants to nonprofit museums throughout the world to conserve historically or culturally significant works of art that are in danger of deterioration. Since the program’s launch in 2010, Bank of America has provided grants to museums in 29 countries supporting over 100 conservation projects.

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