Descent from the Cross

Department of Mediaeval Antiquities


Obra tras la conservación y restauración

Anonymous Flemish. Brussels workshop
15th century
INV. Nº 56644
Polychromatic painted and gilded wooden sculpture.
42.5 X 30 X 10.5


This relief was part of a Flemish altarpiece made in a Brussels workshop. Its rich, polychromatic style corresponds to a fashion of Central European origin used between the middle of the 15th century and the beginning of the next, characterised by the use of applied brocade.

State of conservation:

The relief has suffered volumetric losses affecting the sculpture’s protruding areas and edges. The most important faults are found in the left arm of the figure of Christ, the leg and hand of the character on the ladder, and the ladder itself. The piece also has several vertical cracks, some with separation from the wooden backing, for example on the cross and on the ladder, although all of these are old and do not seem to be compromising the work’s stability. The great accumulation of superficial dirt darkens and hides the beauty of the polychromy, to which are added the losses of fixation points, some holes, wear and tear affecting the rigging, the paint layers, the gilt and the brocade.

Samples of the brocade were analysed in the laboratories of the IPCE and it could be confirmed that the polychromy was of Nordic origin, with identification of the calcium carbonate preparation and brocade filling, mostly made of beeswax.


Mechanical cleaning of the surface of the work was carried out. The polychromy and gilt were fixed by application of organic glue, adhesion being encouraged by moderate heat and pressure. The surface was also cleaned chemically using a grease emulsion based on white spirit, ligroin, water and brij. A 3% solution of ammonium citrate was used where the dirt was most resistant.