Masterpieces by Bosch, Tintoretto and Van der Weyden to remain at Prado

Government plans to turn down a petition to have them transferred to a new royal museum

Hieronymus Bosch's 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' is a major visitor draw at the Prado Museum.
Hieronymus Bosch's 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' is a major visitor draw at the Prado Museum.Manuel Escalera

The Prado will in all likelihood keep several paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, Van der Weyden and Tintoretto, all of which have been on view in the Madrid museum since 1936.

The government plans to turn down a request by Patrimonio Nacional, the national heritage trust, to transfer this famous artwork to the new Museum of Royal Collections, which is set to open its doors in 2016 near the Royal Palace in Madrid.

A high-ranking government official told EL PAÍS that “save for a couple of legal details, the decision has been made. The paintings will not leave the Prado.”

Relations between the Prado and the national heritage trust could best be described as thorny

The administration of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is putting the finishing touches to a legal document that will ensure that key paintings remain permanently inside Madrid’s most famous art gallery.

If confirmed, the decision will quash attempts by Patrimonio Nacional chairman José Rodríguez-Spiteri and the future director of the royal museum, José Luis Díez, to secure four masterpieces for the new center: Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights and The Seven Deadly Sins; Van der Weyden’s The Descent from the Cross; and Tintoretto’s Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet.

According to a news story published by the website El Confidencial, in July José Rodríguez-Spiteri wrote a letter to Prado director Miguel Zugaza reminding him that those paintings are the property of Patrimonio Nacional, which wants them back.

Prado chief Miguel Zugaza will not be losing his masterpieces.
Prado chief Miguel Zugaza will not be losing his masterpieces.VANESSA MONTERO

The artwork has been at the Prado since 1936, when the Republican government took it there for protection at the onset of the Civil War. In 1943, Franco decreed that the paintings could remain there under a legal status known as “temporary deposit.” This status was renewed in 1998.

The matter has not been helped by the fact that relations between the Prado and Patrimonio Nacional could best be described as thorny. Officials at the latter institution have already informed Zugaza that they will not be lending out any works for the upcoming Prado exhibitions on Bernini and Van der Weyden. The new museum’s director, José Luis Díez, was until recently curator of 19th-century art at the Prado.

The Prado itself knows what it’s like to get a no for an answer. Some years ago, its own petition to get Picasso’s famous anti-war mural Guernica back from the Reina Sofía contemporary art museum was rejected outright.

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