This summer we are wishing "buenas vacaciones” to one of Rienzi’s paintings: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s The Nativity is on holiday, loaned to the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Spain, for the exhibition Murillo and Justino de Neve. The Art of Friendship (June 26–September 30). The exhibition will then travel to Fundaćion Focus Abengoa in Seville, Spain (October 11–January 10), and Dulwich Picture Gallery in London. This three-part blog series discusses The Nativity, its unusual medium, and the painting’s journey overseas to the Prado with Rienzi’s director, Katherine Howe.
When thinking about summer vacation preparations (I went on my vacation last week!) we have to consider how we will travel and what sorts of bags to pack. Some of these thoughts also apply to works of art when they go “on holiday” as a loan to another museum. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s 17th-century work The Nativity was carefully transported from its home in Houston to the Prado in Madrid.
A work of art must be accompanied by a courier: someone who is trained to care for the art, ensuring its safety, during the journey. Often the courier is a curator; sometimes it is a museum registrar or art handler. Just as you would escort your own luggage to the airport, a courier oversees the packing and transportation of an artwork and makes sure it doesn’t get lost (What we all dread, the beach without a bathing suit? No fun.) Rienzi’s director, Katherine Howe, accompanied The Nativity to the Prado. She was able to take some shots of the art work being transported, and I wanted to share some of the photographs of its unwrapping in Madrid. Enjoy! If you happen to be in Spain, check out the exhibition for us and tell us about it in the comments below!