And the frescoes of Annibale Carracci’s Herrera Chapel are back in Rome

Exhibition of a reconstructed work in an extraordinary space.

Andrés Úbeda de los Cobos , Deputy Director of Conservation and Research at the Prado Museum, excitedly described, in the presentation to the press in Rome at Palazzo Barberini (a few steps from Piazza Barberini), the result of a long work carried out by various entities, to recover the frescoes that were created by the artist Annibale Carracci at the beginning of the ‘600. His work consisted of painting the frescoes in the Herrera Chapel that was owned by the family of the Spanish banker Juan Enríquez de Herrera for the Church of San Giacomo de los Españoles in Rome in Piazza Navona.

In the exhibition organized by the Museo del Prado and the Museo Nacional de Arte de Catalunya, 16 frescoes rescued and placed in the Sala Marmi, rebuilt to give it the right proportions and the original sequence of what was the Herrera Chapel, can be appreciated.

The history of frescoes is long and exciting.

Annibale Carracci, at the beginning of the ‘600, was commissioned to decorate the chapel and devised to dedicate his work to the Franciscan Saint Diego de Alcalá. He asked Sisto Badalocchio to do the job, he was a young man who did not have enough experience to carry out a work of this magnitude. “The work of a muralist must be learned, not because one knows how to paint in oils one automatically knows how to make a mural” clarified the Deputy Director of Conservation and Research of the Museo del Prado.This young painter did his job but the master was not satisfied, so he decided to ask Francesco Albani to destroy what Sisto Badalocchio had painted and paint it again. Later he fell ill and asked Francesco Albani and another group of artists such as Domenichino, Giovanni Lanfranco and Sisto Badalocchio to carry it out.

Apparently, and despite the illness and with the help of the other artists, he painted the altarpiece.

In the 19th century, the chapel was dismantled. In 1830, the frescoes were removed from the walls of the chapel and transferred on a cloth to the Church of Santa Maria de Montserrat. Years later, the frescoes were divided and distributed between the Prado Museum in Madrid and the Sant Jordi Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona. Currently seven of the fragments are kept in Madrid at the Prado Museum and nine in Barcelona at the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC). The location of the other pieces that were apparently deposited in the Church of Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli in Rome is unknown.

The director of the Galleria Nazionali di Arte Antica (Palazzo Barberini) Flaminia Gennari Santori, highlighted the work carried out in this Museum to reconstruct the environment that the Herrera Chapel surely had at the time. It is worth noting the great work they did in this space since they have been able to build the right dimensions so that the pieces fit exactly.

The miracle of San Diego, Harrera Chapel, Prado Museum

The miracle of San Diego, Harrera Chapel, Prado Museum.

Andrés Úbeda de los Cobos commented that it is surely the longest project he has carried out in his entire professional life. “It is very important to pay attention to the paintings and their placement, now we see them here in the exhibition just as they were distributed in the Herrera Chapel in the year 1605 more or lessalthough three pieces are missing and it is not known where they are, apparently they were placed on the front wall and in an oval space”. Another part that Úbeda de los Cobos highlighted was the state of conservation (taking into account that they are frescoes that have been extracted from the walls, placed on canvas and that have not stopped traveling from one place to another. Surely they were previously restored but it is not known if anything was destroyed in these works, stressed the Deputy Director of Conservation and Research of the Museo del Prado .Fresco Eternal Father of the Herrera Chapel of the National Museum of Art of CataloniaFresco Eternal Father in the Herrera Chapel of the National Art Museum of Catalonia.

Cool idea for kids

On the occasion of this exhibition, the museum has organized a most suggestive activity for children to learn about the figure of Annibale Carracci and the art of painting murals: From November 20 to February 5, 2023, every Sunday, except the first of each month, the didactic laboratory “L’atelier dell’artista by Si pArte! ASP , invite children between the ages of 6 and 12 to participate in a most creative workshop. They will know what this artist was and the life of some of his collaborators and they will be able to paint a personalized comic with the protagonists they have met during the visit to the Herrera Chapel exhibition.