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Judge orders 'immediate' return of 111 works of art from Museum of Lleida

The western Catalan art centre has to give the pieces back to parishes in the neighbouring region of Aragon

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11 December 2019 10:50 AM

by

ACN | Barcelona

A judge has ordered the "immediate" return of 111 works of art that are currently in the Museum of Lleida, to the parishes of the diocese of Barbastre-Montsó in the neighboring region of Aragon

The ruling was made public on Wednesday, although the decision can be appealed in the same court within 20 days, something the Museum of Lleida and the diocese of Lleida will now look into doing. 

The ruling comes two years to the day since police entered the Museum of Lleida during the period of direct rule after the 2017 independence bid, to seize and take back to Aragon the 44 Sixena works in the museum.

The removal of those pieces two years ago was the culmination of a long-standing dispute between the Aragon and Catalan authorities over the ownership of the artworks.

Dispute going back decades

Catalonia maintains that the artworks were legally bought with documentation decades earlier and that the orders to finally return the pieces was politically motivated following the independence bid.

In fact, the Sixena situation dates back to 1936, when the monastery was set on fire during the Spanish Civil War, and specialists decided to transfer the art from Aragon to Catalonia for safekeeping and restoration.

Catalonia went on to buy the items legally in the 1980s, but Aragon insisted the transaction was outside the law and turned to the courts to reclaim the artwork, which was mostly housed in the Lleida and MNAC museums.

The latest episode in the ongoing series of legal disputes between Catalonia and Aragon has its origins in 1995, with the segregation of parishes formerly part of the Lleida diocese located in Aragonese territory.

The government of Catalonia announced they will appeal the sentence for the art, and expressed their regret that the judge "ignored" the arguments of keeping the works in the Mesuem of Lleida. 

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  • Court declarations from the curator of the Episcopal Museum in Vic during the trial related to the 111 works of art in the Museum of Lleida (by Laura Cortés)

  • Court declarations from the curator of the Episcopal Museum in Vic during the trial related to the 111 works of art in the Museum of Lleida (by Laura Cortés)

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