Over 3,700 confiscated works from Franco regime in Spanish museums

Alaska Commons 21 January 2024

The Museo del Prado in Spain is home to over 3,700 pieces of art that were confiscated and deposited in Spanish museums after the Civil War. Arturo Colorado, a professor at the Complutense University and an expert in heritage studies during the Civil War and postwar period, believes that there is still much to investigate and new data may appear. He compares the looting of art during this time to the actions of the Nazis during World War II.

Public organizations estimate that over 2,300 pieces were confiscated and handed over in the post-war period. This number does not include works that were given to churches, convents, religious institutions, or individuals. Colorado has identified 70 works confiscated during the Franco regime that are currently in the Prado Museum’s collections.

Colorado believes that it is essential for national museums and other institutions to investigate these works and locate their origin and legitimate owners. He points out that the Ministry of Culture has enabled a website for this purpose, but it has not created a database of the thousands of looted works. He gives the example of the confiscation of the assets of Pedro Rico, a Republican mayor of Madrid, whose family has not received satisfaction for their requests to reclaim his assets.

Colorado also notes that works were evacuated from Spain during the war and later returned, but some were diverted by Franco’s agents and delivered to other recipients. Additionally, there were cases of looting and illegal export of art on both the Republican and Francoist sides during the war.

In terms of universities, six Spanish universities have been identified as recipients of confiscated works, including the universities of Murcia, Oviedo, Valladolid, Alcalá, Verano de Santander, and Complutense. The University of Oviedo has recently made known the results of its investigations into the delivered works, which Colorado finds commendable.

In conclusion, the investigation of confiscated works during the Civil War and postwar period is an ongoing process, and it is crucial for national museums and other institutions to continue their efforts to locate the origin and legitimate owners of these works.
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