The health of Guernica (photo), Picasso’s masterpiece that depicts intense suffering, is not in danger, said the Reina Sofia art museum, after carrying out the first X-ray of Pablo Picasso’s 20th century anti-war painting.
Over a year ago, the museum started a series of tests on one of the world’s most prized art works. The X-ray of the large-format canvas, 11 feet by 25 feet (3.5-meters by 7.8-meters), was part of that series of tests.
A decade ago, 129 imperfections, from cracks to creases to marks and stains, turned up in the last major analysis of Guernica, and all were attributed to the painting’s hectic past.
“The X-ray lets us see in what condition the painting is in, its makeup, the colors and the damage it has suffered”, Manuel Borja-Villel, the director of Reina Sofia, Spain’s national museum of 20th century art, told The Associated Press in an interview this week.
“The good news is that the latest X-ray results show the imperfections haven’t increased”, added Mr Borja-Villel. “But age pardons no one, and paintings are no different.”
Aiming to produce a definitive analysis of the painting by 2010, the museum’s specialists have now pieced together the studies.
So far, the tests show that the painting needs only a periodical dusting and a possible cleanup of some stains resulting from its only previous restoration, done by New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1957.
Commissioned from Picasso by the Republican government of Spain, Guernica represent the country at a Universal Exposition in Paris, in 1937, when Spain was writhed in a bloody civil war, started by Gen. Francisco Franco, Spain’s future dictator.
And when the fair was over, the painting visited dozens of cities on both sides of the Atlantic, for nearly 20 years.
“Every time it was moved it had to be taken off its support and rolled up. That took its toll over the years until one day at the beginning of the 1960s Picasso himself said, ‘Enough is enough’“, said Mr Borja-Villel.
“The painting has a robust constitution, but its traveling days are definitely over”, he added.
In 1981, Guernica was tranfered from MoMA, where it had been deposited on a long-term loan by Picasso until democracy was restored back home, to Spain. It was its final trip.
The black and white canvas comprises tormented and distorted figures, human and animal, and represents the horrors of mechanized war.
As Picasso, the father of modern art, was a world-renowned figure at the time, the work quickly became an artistic and political icon. Since then, it has become one of the most studied works of art in modern history.
On a spring market day in April 26, 1937, Guernica, the ancestral capital of northern Spain’s Basque country, was bombed by Germany and Italy. Both country’s facist rulers were Franco’s allies in a civil war that set the stage for World War II.
Despite the fact that estimates of the number of people killed in the bombing vary greatly, town historians say local records show at least 120 deaths.