Conceived as a three-year program (1994-1997), BNP Paribas pour l'Art was renewed through 2001. Some fifty masterpieces in 36 cities have been restored, including a triptych of the virgin and child in Strasbourg, and paintings by Natoire, Orsel, Deruet, Campana, Jouvenet, Goya and Picasso housed in Troyes, Lyons, Orleans, Montpellier, Rouen, Agen and Toulouse.
Especially noteworthy is the striking restoration, completed in 1997, of one of Veronese's greatest masterpieces, Christ at Supper with Simon, which hangs in the Hercules Salon at the Palace of Versailles.
Today, the second phase of this restoration program is complete. François Lemoyne's masterful painting on the ceiling of the Hercules Salon at the Palace of Versailles, depicting The Apotheosis of Hercules, has been restored in close collaboration with the Office of French Museums (Direction des Musées de France) and, especially, the team of conservators at the National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Musée National du Château de Versailles) and conservators and researchers at the National Center for Museum Research and Restoration (Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France, C2RMF). Plans to restore the ceiling go back to 1990. In 1993 examination using a turret revealed that the canvas had separated in some places, and the paint layer had been denatured (the original painted surface was obscured by yellowed varnish, substantial touch-ups and stains).
This ambitious project -13 restorers worked for two years, 15 meters high over visitors' heads, in a workspace covering 480 m2- is another illustration of the fundamental principle that restoring artworks is an interdisciplinary endeavor. For example, two studies were carried out: One on the history of previous restoration efforts, and another on the work's physical condition, state of preservation and work that needed to be done.
While preserving deterioration due to the physical aging of the canvas, the restorers' work has shed light on the chequered past of this unique work of art, which drove its creator to commit suicide after three years of unprecedented labor.
Today, The Apotheosis of Hercules is back in all its glory on the ceiling of the Hercules Salon, which is also being restored with the financial support of BNP Paribas.
This is a fitting program for the BNP Paribas Foundation. By fostering dialogue between the world of finance and the cultural, scientific and social environment in which it exists, the program's goal is to contribute to the discovery of our heritage, encourage artistic expression and fight suffering and exclusion.
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