A BRITISH-run art restoration group is leading efforts to return to Sevilla a stolen 17th-century painting currently in a London museum.

The Factum Arte group are currently in talks with the Duke of Wellington’s estate to gain access to an original version of Diego Velazquez’s The Waterseller of Seville.

The 1619 painting is among the finest works of Velazquez’s early Sevillla period, and is displayed in Apsley House, on Hyde Park Corner.

It was stolen by Joseph Bonaparte during the Napoleonic wars, before the Duke of Wellington won it back in 1813 and the King of Spain allowed him to keep it as a gift for beating the French.

Factum Arte founder Adam Lowe, an expert in making facsimiles, plans to make a high-quality copy of the painting for a new museum to be opened in Velazquez’s childhood home.

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The Waterseller of Sevilla is one of Velazquez’s finest works from his early period in Sevilla (right), where his childhood home (left) is planned to become a museum after falling into disrepair

He plans to give the museum a ‘great archive’ of all of the 17th century painter’s early work in order for scholars to study this period.

The idea of the museum was another British-Spanish fusion, birthed after Spanish journalist Enrique Bocanegra visited William Shakespeare’s childhood home.

“In Spain we have towns that are famous for olives or wine, but Stratford is famous because it has Shakespeare. I simply loved this,” he told The Times.

Bocanegra later bought Velazquez’s house alongside a group of enthusiasts before petitioning Sevilla’s town hall for permission to make a museum for an artist otherwise paid ‘scant regard’ in his hometown.

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