Officials Want Prado Masterpieces

MADRID -- It would seem that a row has reignited between Spain’s National Heritage office and Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid. The argument is over four important Old Master paintings and where the works should be housed.

National Heritage officials hope to transfer the paintings, which have been in the Prado’s collections since the 1930s, to a new museum in Madrid that cost €160 million --housing the Royal Collections -- and due to open in 2016.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are very familiar with the masterworks housed in the Prado.

The dispute began last summer when the Prado’s director, Miguel Zugaza, received a letter from the president of the National Heritage office, José Rodríguez-Spiteri, requesting that the Prado return the four disputed works:

Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights (1500-05) and Table of the Mortal Sins (around 1480); Tintoretto’s The Foot Washing (1548-49); and Descent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden (around 1435).

The works of art have been in the care of the Prado since the late 1930s, after the paintings were moved there for safekeeping during Spain’s civil war.

A spokeswoman for the National Heritage office told The Art Newspaper: “The works to which you refer belong to the Royal Collections [National Heritage] and have been in temporary storage at the Prado since 1943; a National Heritage law of 1982 reinforced this [position]. The permanent collection will consist exclusively of works which belong, historically, to the National Heritage office.”

But the spokeswoman declined to comment on remarks made by Rodríguez-Spiteri Palazuelo in the El Pais newspaper in which he proposed a rotating display of the works at both sites.

In a statement in April the Prado outlined its position saying that the works were removed from the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in Madrid between 1932 and 1936, and handed over by the government to the museum. “This transferral was decreed by the head of state in 1943,” the Prado added.

“These masterpieces are public, not private, property, and belong to all Spaniards. They are an essential part of the Prado’s identity,” the statement continues, it also stresses that the government has repeatedly assured the Prado that the works will stay at the museum. A spokesman for Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, told El Pais in June 2014: “The government does not intend in any way to touch the Prado’s collection; these works will remain in the museum.”

José Ignacio Wert, Spain’s minister of education, culture and sport, dispelled fears that the Renaissance masterpieces would be transferred to the planned Royal Collections museum late last year. Appearing on Spanish television, he assured viewers that the issue “has been resolved” and that the transfer of the works will not happen, reported the EFE news agency.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video offers a close-up of Bosch's 'Earthly Delights'.