Rome returns 596 Mexican paintings to Mexico

The Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities of Italy, Alberto Bonisoli delivered yesterday in Rome, Italy, to the Secretary of Culture of Mexico, Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, the 596 Mexican paintings of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, illegally removed from territory national and insured in Italy in 2018, by the Command Carabinieri Tutela Cultural Heritage Nucleo de Monza, Milan.

The Mexican paintings, from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, were stolen from the national territory; among them several from San Luis Potosí
The Mexican paintings, from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, were stolen from the national territory; among them several from San Luis Potosí

The Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities of Italy, Alberto Bonisoli delivered yesterday in Rome, Italy, to the Secretary of Culture of Mexico, Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, the 596 votive offerings of Mexican origin of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, illegally removed from territory national and insured in Italy in 2018, by the Command Carabinieri Tutela Cultural Heritage Nucleo de Monza, Milan.

This recovery is part of the cooperation between INAH and the Arma dei Carabinieri, derived from the signing of the UNESCO Convention of 1970, on measures to be adopted to prohibit and prevent the illegal importation, exportation and transfer of the cultural property, an instrument that expresses an international consensus to generate actions that protect the values of civilizations and historical heritage, as well as tools to restore cultural assets to their countries of origin.

During the delivery ceremony, Alejandra Frausto Guerrero thanked on behalf of the Government of Mexico and said that the actions undertaken by Italy for this delivery, endorse the commitment of that country with the cultural heritage; Mexico's cooperation with Italy is part of the unwavering commitment of both nations to prevent and prevent the illicit trafficking of cultural goods, the INAH said in a statement.

Frausto also highlighted that Mexico has legislation that protects cultural heritage and prohibits and sanctions illicit trafficking; in this sense, it has signed bilateral agreements with different countries and makes diplomatic or judicial steps before foreign entities to recover the Mexican heritage that has been extracted illegally from the national territory.

"Upon receiving these pieces, Mexico recovers a wealth of iconographic testimonies that allow us, through time, to delve into the domestic and community life of the peoples of Mexico, their beliefs and customs and, with it, the different fragments of its vital history, narrated with simplicity by its own protagonists ", mentioned the general director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), Diego Prieto Hernández, present at the official ceremony of restitution of Mexican cultural assets.

Diego Prieto explained that the votive offerings are handmade gifts offered to the saints and virgins with the graphic representation of favors received, especially in the healing of a disease or for the salvation of life in the face of danger. In this case, these are scenarios in which their landscapes, daily work, social types and some experiences that reflect the evolution of the customs of each era are observed and described.

Likewise, the head of INAH commented that since its creation in Italy, in May 1969, the operation of the Carabineros Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage has been highly specialized and exemplary.

"In Mexico, we have learned from their knowledge and experience in the protection and recovery of cultural heritage, especially in the months following the 2017 earthquakes, which damaged more than 2,300 buildings and around 6,000 historic movable assets," he said. His collaboration, he added, has also been invaluable in the training of Mexican police personnel, both in techniques of conservation and assurance of cultural assets and in safeguarding them. He also reiterated the gratitude, on behalf of INAH and Mexico, to those who made possible the restitution of this collection.

The pieces were evaluated and judged by expert experts in easel painting, of the National Coordination of Conservation of Cultural Heritage (CNCPC) of INAH, after which on October 19, 2018, Major Lanfranco Disibio sent to INAH images of the 596 ex-votos.

The opinion details that the group of works analyzed belong to the XVIII, XIX and XX centuries; his invoice techniques are multiple, distinguishing that they were made on wood, sheet, fabric and cardboard; his pictorial techniques are not easy to determine through the photographic record, but many of them have the appearance of being made in oil (they coincide mainly with the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries), as well as another group to which ex-votos of the 20th century belong. that by their pictorial tonalities seem to have a technical diversity.

Through the iconographic analysis it was determined that the subjects of the paintings are frequent in the Mexican votive offerings because the inscriptions on the cartouches that they contain come from religious temples of different states of the country: Mexico, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Jalisco, San Luis Potosí, Michoacán, Puebla, Querétaro, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Veracruz and Mexico City.

The state of conservation of the works is varied, having a large group that is appreciated in good conditions, although in other pieces damages are perceived; in some votive offerings the restoration intervention is evident, papers adhering to the surface are noticed in order to stop the detachment of the pictorial layers. An effect commonly appreciated in these votive offerings is the corrosion of the metallic support that affects the paint layers.

The opinion was sent to the Italian authorities on November 6, 2018, through the Italian Embassy in Mexico, to begin the repatriation efforts, which on March 6 were finalized

Fraustro was accompanied by the director general of INAH, Diego Prieto Hernández, while Bonisoli was accompanied by the commander of the Carabineros for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage, Fabrizio Parrulli, during the delivery of the 596 votive offerings, in the Sala della Crociera del Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities, in Rome.

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