The Mystery of the Tilted Picture

If you have visited the collection of the Museu Picasso in recent years and have a sharp eye you will probably have noticed that one of the artworks slants away from the wall at an angle. Do you know which picture we’re talking about? In fact, this is one of the highlights of the collection: Motherhood, a pastel from 1903.

Picasso's wotk Motherhood
Motherhood. Pablo Picasso, 1903

The technique of hanging the work at an angle was used for the first time in 2003, coinciding with a redesign of the permanent exhibition. The work was found to have lost colour in several areas as a result of the deterioration produced by external agents. To limit the risk of further loss of material and reduce unnecessary tension in the work, the Department of Preventive Conservation and Restoration devised its own system for conserving the picture. The innovative solution was to construct an inclined plane solid enough to support the work. The support structure was securely mounted on and painted the same colour as the wall in order to give uniformity to the discourse. This effectively prevents the pigment from falling off as a result of gravity and ensures that the paper does not have to bear so much weight and become even more fragile.

Obra inclinada

Inclined plane of the work Motherhood

In order to implement the full protocol of preventive conservation, a sheet of conservation glass was placed over the work and, at first, when the work was displayed for a while in a different location, it was installed in a special display cabinet with passive climate control.

The mounting of an artwork at an inclined plane is a rather unusual form of presentation only used in certain cases. Motherhood has been hung in this position for nine years now. In that time, other works have been displayed using this pioneering technique, as circumstances required. The experience of these years has shown this to be a simple but effective system, so much so that the lenders of a number of fragile works for temporary exhibitions at the Museu Picasso have requested that they be displayed in this way.

Isabel Moreno
On practical placement at the Museu Picasso from the Master’s in Cultural Heritage Management at the Universitat de Barcelona

1 Comment
  • David
    March 20, 2012

    Gràcies Museu Picasso per explicar-nos aquestes coses tan interessants…

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