ON JAN. 25, 2010, UST will unveil a century-old 1.9×3 meter painting of Miguel de Benavides, founder of the University and the third bishop of Manila.

The Museum of Arts and Sciences has decided to conserve an unsigned painting of Benavides, in preparation for the quadricentennial celebration of the institution he founded through an endowment 398 years ago.

“It was painted in 1911 and was shelved in the Museum stockroom for a long time, so I guess the best time to exhibit it is during its 100th year and the quadricentennial of UST,” said Museum assistant director Anna Marie Bautista.

Bautista said the painting titled “The Foundation of the University of Santo Tomas by Archbishop Miguel de Benavides” would be transferred to the mezzanine of the Main Building. The bust of St. Thomas Aquinas there may be moved to the UST-Tan Yan Kee Student Center, she said.

Center for Museum Conservation chief Maita Reyes said the Benavides painting is now in the fourth phase of five-step scientific and aesthetic conservation processes that started last July.

The conservation started by cleaning the piece, followed by the removal of acids accumulated over the years. The acids, which caused the painting’s discoloration as well as damage to the canvas, were extracted using anti-acidic agents.

Using ethylene vinyl acetate, a special adhesive chemical, the painting was glued into an imported neutralized lining which serves as its new canvas.

Currently, the painting is undergoing “aesthetic unity,” or reconstruction of the painting pigments.

“We are using a special pigment that is reversible [or removable] for study purposes,” Reyes said. “[Finally], a special ultraviolet varnish will also be applied to prolong the life of the painting.”

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Conservation, which includes scientific processes, is different from restoration which is only a retouching of a faded painting.

Bautista said the conservation of a portrait of Domingo de Salazar, the first bishop of Manila, was finished during the third week of November.

“The Naval Museum [in Spain] asked us if we have a photo of Domingo de Salazar. After we found out that [UST] has the original Salazar painting, we decided to conserve it,” Bautista said.

The portrait is back in the stockroom of the Museum, which houses roughly 98 percent of the collection.

Only two percent are out on display due to limited space in the Museum, which first served as the paraninfo or a multi-purpose gathering hall when the University moved to España in 1927.

Reyes said two panels showing a Crucifix and the Our Lady of La Naval on the wall facing the Museum are also under restoration.

“The two panels were too big that they could hardly be brought inside the conservation laboratory,” Reyes said.


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