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Restored Martí canvas damaged by the Saratoga explosion

marti-restaurdo-1After more than two months of intense work in the easel painting restoration workshop of the Office of the City Historian, the canvas of the Apostle that presided over the lobby of the Martí Theater has recovered its original appearance and is ready to be be displayed.

This was one of the works that were damaged by the shock wave of the explosion that occurred on May 6 at the Hotel Saratoga.

The piece, by Cuban painter Miguel Díaz Salinero (1874-1944), is an appropriation of a photograph taken in 1892 of José Martí, in Kingston, Jamaica. The artist, a student of Leopoldo Romañach (1862-1951), dedicated a large part of his work to developing this type of iconographic work, especially of the National Hero, about whom he made more than a dozen pieces, some of which are part of the collection of the José Martí Birthplace Museum.

According to Juan Carlos Bermejo, director of the easel painting restoration workshop, the painting received several impacts and inlays of crystals and solid materials. “The most serious damage was in the head area, but there were scattered damage throughout the surface and the frame.”

The piece had been restored in 2013 in the workshop itself, when it was ready to be exhibited at the Martí Theater from its reopening on February 24, 2014: “On that occasion we put some patches on the canvas, we touched up the painting and we varnish”.

The piece had been restored in 2013 in the workshop itself, when it was ready to be exhibited at the Martí Theater from its reopening on February 24, 2104. Photo: Workers.

“Now it was necessary to reline it —explains the expert restorer and also a photographer— because there were numerous breakages and this structurally compromised the work. The relining was done with high quality linen and as an adhesive we used wax-resin, which is the most recommended due to the relative humidity and other peculiarities of Cuba. We changed the reinforcement brackets to the frame. The frame also suffered from the impacts, we reconstructed the damage of the molding, and applied a patina of aging”.

“Upon receiving the piece, the first thing was to relax the support, says Bermejo. Then, we remove the canvas from the frame to proceed with the relining, a process that takes heat so that both fabrics adhere. Once the ironing is finished, we clean the excess wax-resin, return the work to the frame and start the stucco, whose function is to reconstruct, with a mixture of wax and calcium carbonate, the surface of the lost fabric and the damaged pictorial layer, imitating the original texture. Then we varnish and touch up with the appropriate pigment. As a closure, the finishing varnish”.

This restoration is the result of the collective work of specialists such as the veteran Leandro Grillo, Antonio Torrens, Juan Carlos Bermejo and Alejandro Mato, the latter still a student at the University of the Arts.

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