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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
mata mua madrid

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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ART

Spain blocks auction of possible Caravaggio painting with opening price of €1,500

The Spanish government on Thursday blocked the auction of a 17th-century oil painting in Madrid on suspicion that it may actually be a lost masterpiece by the Renaissance artist Caravaggio.

Spain blocks auction of possible Caravaggio painting with opening price of €1,500

Writing on Twitter, Culture Minister Jose Manuel Rodriguez Uribes said the painting had been declared “not for export… on suspicion it may be a Caravaggio”.

Entitled “Coronation with Thorns”, the canvas shows Jesus before his crucifixion and was attributed in the auction catalogue to “the entourage of (Spanish artist) Jose de Ribera”.

Marked with an opening price of €1,500 ($1,800), it was to have been sold off on Thursday at the Ansorena auction house in Madrid.

“Lot 229 has been withdrawn from the auction so it will not go under the hammer this afternoon,” an Ansorena spokeswoman told AFP.

“As to who painted it, different experts are studying the work and right now we have no further information. The painting has been declared ‘not for export’ and will not be able to leave Spain.”

In 2014, a lost masterpiece by Caravaggio called “Judith and Holofernes” was found under an old mattress in the attic of a house in the French city of Toulouse.

The biblical-style canvas depicted a beautiful Jewish widow beheading a sleeping Assyrian general.

With an estimated value of up to $170 million, the painting was due to go under the hammer in June 2019 but was snapped up by an anonymous foreign buyer just two days before the auction.

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