The exhibition brings together a selection of nine paintings on monochrome stone (slate and white marble) by Italian painters such as Sebastiano del Piombo, Titian, Daniele da Volterra and Leandro Bassano, which reflect the consolidation of a new approach to artistic techniques that emerged in the early decades of the 16th century. They are displayed alongside classical Roman works and specimens of natural stone that provide a context for the relationship between painting and natural history, geology and archaeology.

Three of the works from the Prado’s own collection selected for the exhibition have undergone lengthy and complex restoration, funded by Fundación Iberdrola España as Protector Sponsor of the Museum’s Restoration Programme.

A carefully selected group of works from the Museum’s collection, together with others from Naples, will reveal the new approach to artistic techniques that emerged in the early decades of the 16th century. These paintings also reflect aesthetic and philosophical concepts of the time: the reproduction of new pictorial effects involving the control of the fall of light on the painting’s surface; the perception of the natural world as codified in classical texts; the paragone with sculpture; and the desire to produce eternal creations.

While there have been some previous exhibitions of a general nature on this subject, the Museo del Prado has set out to offer an in-depth focus. This has firstly involved a study of the theories that stimulated its emergence, and secondly, an exploration of the origins of the technique, its relationship with the classical world and the pictorial procedures that were perfected by Sebastiano del Piombo, Titian and Daniele da Volterra in order to achieve different chromatic effects while making use of unconventional supports and creating works that have survived to the present day.

The nature of the support and the close relationship established by the present research project with the classical tradition of polychrome stone has encouraged a collaboration with other disciplines, including natural history, geography and archaeology. This has allowed for a focus on how these works were made and a greater knowledge of them, reflected in different aspects of the exhibition. Firstly, through the inclusion of works from these different fields: classical Roman pieces and specimens of unworked stone, which help to provide a context for the selected paintings. Secondly, through a series of very specific studies undertaken using procedures employed in these different disciplines, the results of which are presented in the exhibition’s accompanying publication.

The two works by Titian and the painting by the studio of the Bassanos in the Prado’s collection have undergone lengthy and complex restoration in which, thanks to the sponsorship of Fundación Iberdrola España, a number of specialists in different areas of restoration (paint, frames and supports) have taken part with the aim that visitors can fully appreciate the uniqueness of these works, executed in oil on supports both special and rarely encountered in the history of art.