The San Diego Museum of Art will start showing one of its two newest pieces of art Wednesday, a painting by a Spanish artist the museum calls one of its most significant pieces in the past decades.
The paintings, St. Francis in Prayer in a Grotto by Francisco de Zurbarán and By the Seashore, Valencia by Joaquín Sorolla, are valued at approximately $3.5 million.
The Zurbarán will be on view to the public starting Wednesday, January 21. The Sorolla will be on display starting February 26. They will be on display as a part of the 2015 Centennial Celebration in Balboa Park.
Executive Director of the museum, Roxana Velasquez, said at the media unveiling of the first painting by Francisco de Zurbaran, that Tuesday marked a special day for the museum.
"Today is a historic moment," said Velasquez. "It is not common nor frequent that one gets a magnificent gift like the one you have behind me, a Francisco de Zurbarán."
The Zurbaran painting and the Sorolla painting, which will be unveiled in February, are two of the most important and valuable acquisitions for the museum in decades. Velasquez said it is not easy to get a Zurbaran under any circumstances.
"It is almost impossible to get a Zurbaran autographed by him and recognized by the biggest experts in the world," Velasquez said. "This painting is not just a simple addition to our galleries. This painting has everything a Zurbaran should convey and this painting has been already part of international projects and has been solicited to us by museums in Spain and Germany and Brussels and this can speak to you about the caliber of this oil."
Conrad Prebys, the philanthropist that purchased the Zurbarán masterpiece on behalf of The San Diego Museum of Art, said the painting is not just another painting to him.
"This is part of San Diego and this contributes so much to the city of San Diego," Prebys said. "So many people just aren’t aware of what a treasure we have here."
The museum acquired the paintings thanks to the generosity of philanthropists Conrad Prebys and Debbie Turner, and the Legler Benbough Foundation.
Prebys said the first of the two paintings to be unveiled spoke to him personally.
"It mesmerizes me, I can’t help but stare at it," Prebys said. "There’s something extraordinarily beautiful about it and I'm just very, very pleased to be able to present it to the most deserving place in the city, the Museum of Art."
Visitors can get into the museum for free the weekend after each has debuted.