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Arts and culture 07 Dec 2016

Charles II’s journey to Mexico

He travels incognito in a big wooden box that reveals neither the contents nor the destination. Completely immobilized and protected from any impact, Charles II arrives in Puebla by land and by air. The International Museum of the Baroque in Puebla anxiously awaits the arrival of this King’s portrait - part of the BBVA Collection. It hangs in one of the rooms of the exhibition “The Art of Nations: The Baroque as Global Art”. There nothing disturbs the monarch who probably never dreamt he would one day visit Mexico.

The trip is not easy and is certainly not short. In May, the museum in Puebla asks the BBVA Collection to borrow Juan Carreño de Miranda’s portrait of Charles II. All aspects of the request are assessed in Madrid – the characteristics of the exhibition, the importance of the museum, the curator, the conditions in the room, security, transportation…. Nothing can be left to chance and everything must be put in writing.

With proper conservation and a superficial cleaning of the painting, Carreño de Miranda’s oil painting is laid inside a waterproof, fire retardant okoume wooden box. “Plastic (polyethylene) padding is placed inside the box which cushions and acts as an outer case for the painting,” says María García-Frías, Chief Curator of the BBVA Collection.

While Spain’s last Hapsburg is in Puebla, the environmental conditions of the exhibition room must comply with the specific requirements established by the lender regarding the humidity, temperature, light intensity and ultraviolet rays. Once these requirements are met, Charles II prepares for the journey.

Picture of Charles II portrait BBVA Collection

Charles II of Spain, Juan Carreño de Miranda - BBVA Collection

Nail to nail insurance

The museum requesting the painting must purchase a comprehensive insurance policy, known as “nail-to-nail”, while the painting is on loan. The policy covers the painting during transportation and from the start of the loan until it is returned, based on the value the BBVA Collection has set for the painting. It also includes a series of clauses to cover any unexpected damages that could affect or endanger the painting in any way.

Picture of Wooden box BBVA Collection

Nail to nail insurance covers all stages of artwork on loan - BBVA Collection

A King never travels alone

At the end of September, a maximum security escorted truck takes Charles II to Zaragoza, maintaining the required environmental conditions and ensuring that the painting is completely immobilized. A courier, someone designated by the lender, accompanies the king throughout the trip to ensure the painting’s proper handling and conservation.

The young monarch – painted when he was only 10 years old – then boards a plane headed to Mexico City, in a box placed vertically and facing the direction of the flight. Next to him are other paintings destined to travel the world. In the final stage of this long journey, Charles II is placed in another truck headed to Puebla. Once the painting reaches the International Museum of the Baroque, it is required to keep the painting out of the light for at least 24 hours so that it can adjust to the new environment.

After this time has passed, the box is opened in front of the courier. Charles II can finally admire his new home inside a museum of curved, white, glass walls – the work of Japanese architect Toyo Ito. On January 30, 2017, the last ruler of the House of Austria will return to the anonymity of a dull box to go home where he will wait for his next destination.