Restoration of the triptych of the Ladies of Cerdanyola

The three panels of the ladies of Cerdanyola were made around 1910, for the residence of the merchant and jeweler Evarist López, renovated under the direction of the architect Eduard Maria Balcells Buïgas.

The original building had been the first theater-casino of Cerdanyola (1894), designed by the architect Gaietà Buïgas. Apart from the triptych, the house had other stained glass elements, such as doors and windows, which made up an exceptional ensemble. The stained glass windows are included in the Inventory of Catalan Cultural Heritage.

Installed in the old living room of the house, they are three large panels depicting two scenes. The panel located on one of the sides has been named Ladies of the Swing. And the two front panels, which are placed on the same stage interrupted by the pillar of the facade, the Ladies of the lake or Ladies of the swans and the Ladies of the tulips. In the first, the two female figures are on top of a boat surrounded by swans, and in the second, the ladies pick flowers on the shore of the lake.

Iconographically, the constant presence of flowers is striking, which could have a symbolic reading, which reaches its zenith in the lake scene where the ladies feed the swans with peonies -the rose without thorns-, in an image that could have literary readings that refer us to the consummation of love and the myth of Leda and the swan. In fact, the three panels could allude to the three stages of love: falling in love, splendor and melancholy. The richness of the dresses and jewelry, which have a clear Central European echo, influenced by Alphonse Mucha and Eugène Grasset, stand out. The prominent role of the jewels could well be a reference to the owner of the house, owner of the jewelry store La Isla de Cuba, in Plaza Real in Barcelona. The presence of scenes of ladies dancing or in a garden is a constant feature of the period and appears in other stained glass windows.

Although the authorship of the design remains a mystery, it cannot be ruled out the direct or indirect intervention of Alexandre de Riquer, who frequented Cerdanyola and its nucleus of vacationers. In fact, some verses of his work Chrysanthemums seem to evoke the scene. Rodon and Vila-Grau have attributed the technical execution to the German shepherd glassmaker Ludwig Dietrich von Bearn, who had a workshop in Barcelona and excelled in the grisaille technique. In any case, other interventions or authorship of Barcelona glassmakers of the time cannot be ruled out. The original direction and conception of the whole seems to correspond to the architect Eduard Maria Balcells, author of the reform of the building, and of whom it has been possible to locate, among the notebooks of youth, the sketch of a lady picking flowers, which may recall the scene of the so-called Lady of the Tulip.

The three panels are made of cathedral and plate glass, some of them cut and enameled, and are a masterpiece of the grisaille technique, with a subtle and refined use that is evident in the delicate features of the ladies. Stylistically, the simplification and elegance of the drawing, delimited by the black lines of lead and grisaille, and the rich combination of a great variety of colors, achieved with the combination of different types of glazes, enamels and grisaille, stand out.

In 2012, the Cerdanyola Museum of Art (MAC) and the Center for the Restoration of Movable Goods of Catalonia (CRBMC) proposed the need to implement the restoration of the stained glass windowsThe project, which will be carried out successively between 2013 and 2014, starting with the most damaged stained glass windows: the Tulip ladiesthe Ladies of the lake and the Ladies of the swing. The project has been financed by the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Diputació de Barcelona and the Cerdanyola City Council.

Conservation problems

The stained glass windows posed, on the one hand, the typical problems of their natural aging and others due to exposure to external agents and the limitations of their design.

There was a fairly high concentration of fractured pieces in the stained glass of the Ladies of the Tulips. We found some temporary consolidations made with vinyl adhesive and silicone.

The green and blue glazes were severely altered in some cases. Comparison with the photographs taken in 1983 showed that there had been no apparent evolution of these deteriorations, since the stained glass windows were not exposed to external environmental conditions.

Also, some yellow glazes -similar in color and transparency to a silver yellow- had cracks on the surface.

The fractured pieces, the deposited residues and the state and trace of the lead are documented panel by panel, and photographs and diagrams are made. Initially, it was intended to analyze samples of the degraded glazes, but this was not possible.

1984: The stained glass windows are dismantled and exhibited at the Fundació Miró. They no longer return to the original building.

2009: The stained glass windows are collected from a warehouse. They are cleaned and installed in a new isothermal frame, maintaining the metal structure of the original stained glass windows.

Stages of restoration

The stained glass windows are disassembled and assembled one by one, and to avoid leaving a gap in the windows the museum prints canvases that reproduce them. The disassembly of all panels begins with the removal of the putty with fine, low-impact spatulas.

The cleaning process is adapted to the residues to be removed, taking care that there is no loss of pictorial layers. The stained glass windows are coated with a homogeneous layer of poorly adhering residues; water and 50% alcohol are used, which is applied with cotton turundas and then dried with cellulose paper.

The fractured pieces are consolidated with Hxtal NYL-1® epoxy resin and the reinserted pieces are discreetly marked with the year and the name of the workshop.

The leads are then resolved locally. The intervention allows us to observe that the lead used has a core of only 1 mm, being usually 1.5 mm. They are golden on the inner side. This fact is added to a design that uses long weights of different thicknesses to tie very large and heavy pieces. These two cases make the network particularly weak and the movement of the stained glass very delicate. They are always moved by supporting them on rigid planks, cut to the size of each panel.

To achieve the watertightness and rigidity of the stained glass, putty is applied to the panels, with a spatula, in a manual and controlled manner.

Finally, the restored stained glass windows were transported, installed in the original frames, and the original installation system of putty and wooden cracks was replaced with L-shaped iron plates.


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