A Puzzling Piece: The Walters Spanish Processional Cross

Recently in the Objects Conservation lab at the Walters, in collaboration with Curator of Renaissance and Baroque Art at the Walters, Dr. Joaneath Spicer, this 15-16th century Spanish Processional Cross has been the subject of a year-long in-depth study and conservation treatment, funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Spanish Processional Cross, front (shown on the left above) and back (above right). The cross is from Zaragoza, Spain and dates to the 15-16th century. It measures 5.2 feet tall by 1.9 feet wide and is made of gilded-silver and enamel components attached to a wooden core.

Spanish Processional Cross, front (shown on the left above) and back (above right). The cross is from Zaragoza, Spain and dates to the 15-16th century. It measures 5.2 feet tall by 1.9 feet wide and is made of gilded-silver and enamel components attached to a wooden core.

This study was undertaken to learn more about the cross’ history and to carry out conservation treatment in order to make the cross stable enough to be on display in the galleries.

The cross is a part of the original Walters collection, purchased by Henry Walters in 1909 from a Parisian art dealer, and on display in the Walters Art Gallery for many years, but in-depth study and research of this piece had not been done.  Also, cross was in great need of conservation treatment to make it strong enough to be displayed in the galleries. In 1989 it was found to be leaning and unstable while on view, and since then has been secured in art storage at the museum. It is a large undertaking to conserve this piece, which has been made possible through generous funding was provided to the Walters from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Through thorough visual examination, study of comparable objects, and technical analysis, the goals of the project are to answer the following questions: What is the history of the cross? Where did it come from? What alterations made have been made to it over time, either during it’s “life” as a religious object or it’s later life as an art object? When were these changes made? How was the cross constructed, and it is currently assembled “correctly?” How does it compare to other crosses like it?

We hope you will follow along with our discoveries about the cross and its treatment!