Newfields selected as a 2019 Bank of America Art Conservation Project grant recipient

Joey Amato | October 23, 2019

By Joey Amato

The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields has been selected as a 2019 Bank of America Art Conservation Project grant recipient to restore a tapestry in collection called the “Miraculous Draught of Fishes” based on a design by Raphael. The grant funding will make it possible for Newfields to partner with De Wit Royal Manufacturers of Tapestry in Mechelen, Belgium, to ensure this remarkable work of art receives the conservation it needs to be safely installed in the IMA Galleries for years to come. 

This 400-year-old tapestry, woven after a design by Raphael, is a rare and important work from the Italian High Renaissance. The pattern for the tapestry, one of 10 in a series known as the ‘Acts of the Apostles,’ was commissioned in 1515 by Pope Leo X to decorate the Sistine Chapel. The IMA’s tapestry was created ca. 1630 by the esteemed Brussels weaver, Hendrick Mattens. It measures 62.25 in. x 195.25 in. and has a rich history of exhibition both at the IMA and the Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler University. Between these two venues, the tapestry was on nearly continuous display for approximately 50 years, until 2011 when the artwork was deemed unexhibitable due to structural and aesthetic concerns resulting from continuous exposure to light and gravity.

With the grant, the tapestry will be documented at Newfields with high-resolution photography and state-of-the-art dye analysis. The dye analysis will explore at least 50 different samples to understand what dyes were used almost four centuries ago and which fibers might be contemporary repairs. Once the analysis is complete, the tapestry will be prepared for shipment to Belgium where De Wit Royal Manufacturers of Tapestry will complete the conservation treatment. The tapestry will be cleaned to remove grime from years of display. This will be achieved using aerosol suction that was developed and patented by De Wit in 1991. Support fabric will be custom dyed to match the tapestry, and this fabric will be stitched to the back of the tapestry to strengthen the weakest areas. Lastly, the textile will be lined with a custom dyed linen fabric, which will be attached to the tapestry in approximately 300 places in every square meter.

“This remarkable tapestry is one of the crown jewels of the Clowes Collection here at the Indianapolis Museum of Art,” said Dr. Charles L. Venable, The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO at Newfields. “We are so grateful to the Clowes Fund for the gift of this rare and extraordinary example of Renaissance art and for the generosity from Bank of America that allows us to conserve this masterpiece.”

This exciting conservation project is set to be completed by August 2021, just in time for the reopening of the Clowes Pavilion inside the IMA Galleries. When the Pavilion reopens in fall 2021, the tapestry will serve as an introductory artwork for the Pavilion that will house the Clowes Collection. Additional funding for the tapestry’s conservation and reinstallation is generously provided by The Clowes Fund in honor of longtime president of the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, William Marshall, who is retiring after more than 30 years of service to the Fund. Conservation oversight for this project will be by Amanda Holden, Conservator of Textiles at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.

 “At Bank of America, we believe in the power of the arts to help communities thrive and achieve greater cultural understanding,” said Andy Crask, Indianapolis Market President at Bank of America. “Partnering with institutions like Newfields is key to connecting Bank of America with opportunities that allow us to ensure that important works of art are accessible to all, now and in the future.”

The restoration of “Miraculous Draught of Fishes” designed by Raphael is one of 22 Art Conservation Projects announced at this year’s selection announcement event hosted by Bank of America on October 16 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Recipients in nine countries and 12 U.S. cities and territories are receiving grant funding through the 2019 Bank of America Art Conservation Project.

“Miraculous Draught of Fishes” is in select company as a 2019 recipient. Other works being recognized as 2019 ACP recipients includes “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh and “The Bather” by Paul Cezanne – The Museum of Modern Art, New York; “Spring” by Georgia O’Keefe – Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe; ten large-scale assemblage paintings by Thornton Dial, Sr. – High Museum of Art, Atlanta; “Portrait of Madame Josette Gris” by Juan Gris – Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; a diverse selection of works at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico; and Scènes des massacres de Scio “The Massacre at Chios” by Eugene Delacroix – Musée Du Louvre, Paris.

The Bank of America Art Conservation Project provides grant funding to nonprofit cultural institutions throughout the world to conserve historically or culturally significant works of art that are in danger of deterioration. Since the Art Conservation Project began in 2010, Bank of America has provided grants for more than 170 projects in 33 countries on six continents to conserve paintings, sculptures and archaeological and architectural pieces that are critically important to cultural heritage and the history of art.

The Art Conservation Project is a key element of Bank of America’s program of arts support worldwide, and part of the company’s environmental, social and governance program. Bank of America believes in the power of the arts to help economies thrive, educate and enrich societies, and create greater cultural understanding. The program includes loans of its private art collection to museums at no cost, sponsorships, and grants to arts organizations for arts education, as well as the preservation of cultural treasures. For more information, please visit the Art Conservation Project website.

Hendrick Mattens (Flemish) after Raphael (Italian, 1483–1520), The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (tapestry), about 1630, wool, 162-1/4 × 195-1/4 in. Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, The Clowes Collection, 2016.372.