At the beginning of 1897, when Picasso was only 15 years old, he started to paint a large canvas so as to present it at the Exhibition of Fine Arts in Madrid. It was Science and Charity, in which you can see an ill lady in bed, assisted by a doctor and a nun with a child in her arms. The father of the young artist, José Ruiz Blasco, not only encouraged him to paint the large canvas, but chose the theme for the painting in a very calculated way, given that works of medical themes were in fashion in the official exhibitions. José Ruiz, moreover, was not only the model for the figure of the doctor, but, so that his son could work in tranquillity, he also rented a studio in the street of la Plat, number 4, half way between the family home in the street of la Mercè and la Llotja, where he was studying. The oil painting was presented in the Madrid exhibition that same year and obtained one of the 125 honourable mentions of that edition. The large canvas was yet another proof of the virtuosity and excellence of the young painter.
It was right here on this property where Picasso painted what is considered his first masterpiece, where the hotel The Serras is now located. And it has precisely been this hotel establishment that has provided support so that the emblematic canvas counts, from now on, on a microclimate frame, which allows the temperature and humidity of the work to be controlled. This was “a necessary intervention”, according to the head of the Department of Restoration and Preventive Conservation of the Museum, Reyes Jiménez, to preserve the work in the best possible condition, now that it has been recently restored.
The sophisticated frame is made of an aluminium structure with anti-reflective glass and filtered with dimensions of 2050 x 2580 x 44 mm and a weight of 250 kilos. The interior structure of the profile acts as a container for the material, which allows the relative humidity of the interior to be regulated. It also has an electronic sensor that records humidity and temperature parameters in real time through an external connection, in such a way that it can be consulted by museum technicians whenever they want. One of the advantages of these types of frames, moreover, is that their structure does not affect the good visibility of the painting by the public. “All this technological material cannot be appreciated, the visitor sees a normal glass,” Jiménez stated.
Sonia Berrocal limpia la parte posterior del marco. 6 de septiembre de 2019. Museu Picasso, Barcelona © Sucesión Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2020
Reyes Jiménez supervisa la instalación del marco climático. 6 de septiembre de 2019. Museo Picasso, Barcelona © Sucesión Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2020
With the installation of this frame, the museum completes the conservation and restoration project of the work, which began in 2017. After carefully studying the work with various techniques such as radiography, infrared x-ray and high-resolution photography was restored to re-establish the lost stability.
The painting entered the museum in 1970, donated by the painter, in not very good condition, because it had previously been nailed directly to the wall and without a frame in the family home in Barcelona. Then it was restored, but in a hurry, so to be able to present it to the museum. After half a century, the materials applied in that restoration had aged and the pigments and varnishes had been altered. With the current restoration and installation of the microclimate frame, the museum is making sure the work is stabilised and one of the best-known paintings of Picasso’s adolescence is protected. “With this frame, the exhibiting conditions of the work are optimal”, said the director of the museum, Emmanuel Guigon.
Restoration of the work Science and Charity in the Palau Nacional. Barcelona, 1970. Photography, Pérez de Rozas. Photographic Archive of Barcelona
Science and Charity is so far the fifth work of the museum to enjoy this system of physical protection. The other works are Las Meninas (1957), Harlequin (1917), The fool (1904) and Seated Man (1917).
Pablo Picasso. Science and Charity. Barcelona, [March-April of] 1897. Oil on canvas 197 x 249.5 cm. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Donation Pablo Picasso, 1970. MPB 110.046. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Fotografía, Miquel Coll © Sucesión Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2020
The artwork “Science and Charity”
The history “Science and Charity”
The restoration “Science and Charity”