KNOWN as ‘La Misteriosa’, she has shadily presided over an art collection worth €390 million that counts Matisse, Picasso and Rodin among its 429 pieces.
But now Baroness Carmen Cervera has once again stepped back into the spotlight, after the removal of a €40 million painting from the Thyssen Museum in Madrid.
The 77-year-old Barcelona-born socialite made waves after announcing that Mata Mua (1892) by French impressionist Paul Gaugin would no longer hang on the gallery’s walls.
Her bold move shook the art world, as the ‘jewel of her collection’ was boxed up for transit in April, while the museum was still closed amid the COVID-19 crisis.
At 7am on June 9, the oil canvas, which features a scene of Maori women in Tahiti, finally left the Madrid museum, where it has been since 1999.
Cervera was pictured watching over the huge crate containing Mata Mua, as it left the secure vaults of the Thyssen.
Art experts wrapped the painting in acid-free tissue paper before packing it into an 82-kilo climate-controlled capsule, with the insurance and shipping costs totalling €82,000.
Cervera even travelled in the truck carrying the painting, which was limited to 90 kilometres per hour and accompanied by private security guards armed with machine guns.
Her intervention came after crunch talks with the Spanish Government over the future of the painting broke down.
The Ministry of Culture, led by Jose Manuel Rodriguez Uribes, had entered negotiations with Cervera in a bid to extend the contract for her collection.
Since 2011 the ‘Thyssen collection’ – named after Cervera’s late husband Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, who died in 2002 – has had its contract renewed on an annual basis.
The State has owned the Thyssen collection since 1993, through an agreement with Cervera, which she branded ‘obsolete’ in 2017.
But on December 13 last year she secured a ‘definitive export license’ for Mata Mua, granting her the right to transport the work unopposed.
Government ministers salvaged a partial deal for the treasure trove of art, meaning that 425 of its pieces can still be displayed in the Capital until September 30.
Cervera has now removed the remaining four pieces from the museum, including Mata Mua.
The trio of other 19th and 20th century classics are Degas’ Racehorses in a Landscape (1894), Monet’s Charing Cross Bridge (1899) and Hopper’s Martha Mckeen of Wellfleet (1944).
The Hopper is now on loan for exhibition in Basel, while Mata Mua is understood to be heading for the smaller Thyssen Museum in Andorra.
Cervera has pledged in the past that she will not sell Mata Mua and recently said she is open to further negotiations with the Government.
She has since installed her son Borja as patron at the Thyssen in Madrid after the Government’s own man Miguel Satrustegui resigned following a rift with the museum’s board.