28 Sep, 2022 @ 17:15
1 min read

Spain’s Prado Museum pledges to return artworks that were stolen during the Civil War and Franco dictatorship

Museo del prado Civil War
Image Museo del Prado

Madrid’s Prado Museum, which is home to works by Goya, El Greco and Velázquez, has announced that it wants to return the artworks it holds that were seized during the Spanish Civil War to their rightful owners. By the end of this year or the beginning of the next, the gallery hopes to have an exhaustive list of all of the pieces that were taken illegally during the era of former dictator Francisco Franco. 

According to online Spanish daily infoLibre, the Prado Museum’s director, Miguel Falomir, made the commitment on Wednesday to “not have anything that is not here on a legal basis”. He was speaking to reporters after the presentation of a restored painting by artist Guido Reni. 

Earlier this month, the Prado produced a list of 25 works that were likely seized by Francoist forces during the Civil War of 1936 to 1939. However, this list will have grown in the wake of further investigation carried out by an expert in the field, emeritus professor Arturo Colorado Castellary. 

Museo del prado during Guerra Civil. Image Hauser y Menet

“Our obligation is to document everything and we don’t want to have anything that is not here legally,” Falomir told infoLibre. “This is the moment to give the investigation a push,” he continued. 

In the years preceding the Spanish Civil War, the authorities catalogued artworks that were held by private citizens. Then, during the conflict and subsequent dictatorship, these possessions were regularly seized by Francoist forces and given to members of the aristocracy. 

This was the case of the family of Carlos Colón Sicardo, who recently spoke to The Olive Press about his battle to recover works taken from his grandparents around the time of the Civil War. Colón has located several of the 200 artworks that were plundered by the Francoist forces, which included paintings by Goya, Tiépolo, Carreño de Miranda and Anton van Dyck. 

Some of the paintings have been located in public buildings such as the Treasury, which is part of the Economy Ministry, while others are in museums in places as far flung as Asturias. He now faces a legal battle to get them returned. 

There has been recent good news, however, for descendants of those who lost their works during the Franco era: the Industry Ministry recently decided to return art it held that had been stolen from Basque politician Ramón de la Sota. Now, too, the Prado is following suit.


Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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