hidden master

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston uncovers rare Diego Velázquez painting amid its own collection

MFAH uncovers rare Diego Velázquez painting amid its own collection

Museum of Fine Arts MFAH Diego Velázquez painting
The MFAH may have been sitting on a master's work. Photo courtesy of ABC13

Next time you go to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, keep your eyes on the lookout for an early 17th-century painting.

During a recent restoration treatment, curators realized it wasn't just any old piece of work, but way more significant than they thought. The painting appears dark and melancholy, but recently its true light was discovered. For years, it wasn't a major display, but recently, Kitchen Servant received a new home.

"Because it hadn't been closely studied, it actually was hanging in one of our museum houses in Rienzi, but not in a prominent position, so I think many people who went through Rienzi didn't know it was," says Dr. Zahira Veliz Bomford, senior conservator of paintings. The painting might actually be the work of the venerable Spanish old master Diego Velázquez, one of the country's most prolific artists.

"He's really showing us a kind of subtle, sympathetic perception of a kind of underclass of society," says Veliz Bomford. The painting's recent restoration gives testament to the work Museum of Fine Arts, Houston does.

Even though this one has been with them since the 1950s, a lot of time and precision had to go in to finding its true identity. "It had a lot of heavy synthetic varnish that had begun to recover and discolor and become gray," says Veliz Bomford.

Kitchen Servant is in great company. If you want to find her, you can do so in the Upper Gallery of the Beck building, specifically in the Spanish Colonial Paintings from the Thoma Collection. There are sculptures, small works of art, even large ones like this painting.


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