The Museo Nacional del Prado has carried out a provisional and urgent review of its funds to locate the works stolen by the Board for Seizure and Protection of Artistic Heritage, created by Franco in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, which were never returned to their rightful owners. As explained from the Prado to this newspaper, as a result of a question formalized last week by elDiario.es about works of this origin in the collections of the art gallery, the Prado Museum contacted the researcher Arturo Colorado. Thanks to the collaboration of the expert, the institution recognizes for the first time in 60 years that it preserves 17 paintings delivered by the General Commissariat of National Artistic Heritage, between 1940 and 1942. In addition, another six arrived between 1968 and 1971, from the extinct Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art. And a fruit bowl and a watch sent in 1972 from the same police station. In addition to those delivered by the General Police Station, the Prado reports that there are another 39 deposited by the Board of Seizure and Protection of Artistic Heritage. In total, 64 pieces of looting.
First restitution of art seized by the Franco regime from a family
The Prado Museum, unlike the Museum of Fine Arts of Asturias (Oviedo), has not constituted in these six decades any commission to investigate the funds and search for works of dubious origin. For now, the museum has carried out a simple query in its database (Collection Access System), in the “origin” field, for the terms “general police station”. These 25 located works “may only be the first”, indicates Arturo Colorado. The researcher also advances that these results are only a first exploration of a commission that the Prado has asked him and his team as a result of the queries of elDiario.es. “In January we will deliver the conclusions after tracking the entire collection,” Colorado informs this newspaper.
The Prado Museum also anticipates this means that it has a “purpose of clarification and, where appropriate, with all documentary and procedural guarantees, restitution.” Something that museums like the Louvre, in France, have been a decade ahead of with the works looted by the Nazis. For its part, the Ministry of Culture, manager of the 16 state museums in whose warehouses hundreds of works of art stolen by the Franco regime are deposited, according to studies in Colorado, have no plan of action. From the communication cabinet of the Miquel Iceta portfolio they indicate that “state-owned museums are always open to collaborating in the investigation of the history of the works”.
The Prado Museum warns that three of the 25 located works suffer from a deteriorated state of conservation. Of the rest they stand out Saint Augustine meditating on the Mystery of the Trinityfrom the Rubens workshop, Woman’s head with white mantillaby Joaquín Sorolla, and Snowy landscape, by Jan Brueghel the Younger (attributed). the others are lady with fan, by José Gutiérrez de la Vega y Bocanegra (copy); two versions of cupids harvestingboth by François Boucher (copy); Christ in the Praetoriumby Pedro Ruiz González; crossing a riverfrom Joost de Momper II; Christ man of sorrowsby Adriaen Isenbrandt; Portrait of Alonso Canoanonymous; the nativityby Francisco de Osona; Adoration of the Magiby Francisco de Osona; lady with fanby José Gutiérrez de la Vega; The flight to Egyptby Manuel de Castro; chained, by Lucas Velazquez; two versions of The Virgin with Saints and Angelsby Pedro Bocanegra, Canon José Olcina y Macía, by José Gutiérrez de la Vega; also by the same author Allegory of the Old Testamentamong others.
The delivery note for the arrival of the stolen work was signed by the then deputy director of the Francisco José Sánchez Cantón museum, when it was directed by Fernando Álvarez de Sotomayor. Sánchez Cantón was deputy director from 1922 and during the Civil War he served as director while Pablo Picasso was director, who did not leave Paris to take up his position. The Franco regime appointed Sánchez Cantón director in 1960. He never dealt with the return of the works.
The Prado assures that it has made an effort in recent years to “describe, digitize and make known all the documentation that it keeps in its archive related to the deposits of works of art in the Prado during the Civil War.” They indicate that anyone affected by the seizures can go to the library and consult its file, which contains 286 files. Now, for the first time, the institution acts ex officio with the intention of creating a registry that clarifies which works were stolen by the Franco regime.