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Lost Velazquez painting fetches €8 million in Madrid

A painting that had been in the same family for generations and was only recently credited to Spain's famed artist Diego Velazquez was sold Tuesday in Madrid for €8 million, auction house Abalarte said.

Lost Velazquez painting fetches €8 million in Madrid
Retrato de niña o Joven Inmaculada (Portrait of girl or Young Immaculate) was sold by Madrid auction house Abalarte.

The “Portrait of a girl,” which portrays a young girl with large, sad eyes, her hands held together as if in prayer, is believed to be an early work by the Sevillian artist best known for his masterpiece “Las Meninas”, on display in Madrid's Prado Museum.

It is believed to have been painted by Velazquez around 1616 or 1617, when the artist was only 17 or 18 years old and still living in the southern Spanish city of Seville, the auction house said.

It had been in the same family for several generations but had never been properly analysed until the owner decided to sell it.    

Richard de Willermin, a specialist on 17th century Spanish art who collaborates with the auction house, examined the small oil on canvas painting and concluded it was by Velazquez.

Specialists at the Prado Museum have also looked at the painting, but the museum has not commented publicly as it never gives any opinion about works that are not part of its own collection.

READ MORE: The Prado ranks above Louvre on list of world's greatest museums

The painting's starting price had been €8 million ($8.7 million), Abalarte said, but there was no higher bidding.    

The identity of the buyer was not revealed, but the painting is banned from leaving the country by order of the government, which prohibits any work that could be part of Spain's heritage from being taken abroad.

A slow and meticulous worker, Velazquez is thought to have painted fewer than 200 works in his entire career. About 120 survive to this day, roughly half of them in the Prado.

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Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.

mata-mua_gauguin-madrid

In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.

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