‘The Conquest of Mexico and the most noble and loyal Mexico City’ (c. 1675-92), a Viceregal biombo (painted screen) on display at the Prado

he Conquest of Mexico and the most noble and loyal Mexico City, c. 1675-92, Madrid, colección particular.

On display at the Museo Nacional del Prado (Room 16) until 26 September 2021 under the title of The Invited Work is a masterpiece of Viceregal art, a painted screen or biombo from a private Madrid collection, showing The Conquest of Mexico and the most noble and loyal Mexico City (c. 1675-92). On one side the screen shows the conquest of Tenochtitlán and on the other a view of a thriving Mexico City. It was probably a gift from the city’s administration to an incoming viceroy. The conquest is shown in a variety of scenes spread over different localities and periods starting with Moctezuma receiving Cortés and finishing with the taking of Tlatelolco the last bastion of the indigenous people. By contrast the side depicting the ‘noble and loyal’ Mexico City seen from on high shows an orderly city with 66 identifiable buildings or sites mainly linked to religious life, as well as the viceregal palace, the Chapultepec hill, the Paseo de la Alameda and the main busy roads. After the 26th September the screen will become part of the Prado’s temporary exhibition Tornaviaje, which will showcase examples of Latin American art and culture from Spanish collections (5/10/21-13/02/22).

The screen is structured around a wooden frame, with 10 ‘doors’ joined by iron rings and with linen cloth glued on both sides as a support for the painting. The nature of its double-sided materials and the water damage and knocks it had suffered over the years had left it in bad condition. Its conservation was directed by María Álvarez Garcillán, who made use of a series of technical studies using analysis by infrared reflectography, ultraviolet light and chemical identification of pigments and materials.

A 2-minute video (in Spanish) showing both sides of the screen, its condition and the technical processes needed to conserve it can be found at this link https://youtu.be/G33BKIPDSsg.

A more detailed description of the conservation (in Spanish) can be found at https://www.hoyesarte.com/evento/2021/04/el-museo-nacional-del-prado-expone-biombo-de-la-conquista-de-mexico-y-la-muy-noble-y-leal-ciudad-de-mexico/

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