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In Precedent-Defying Move, Prado Acquires Cubist Painting by María Blanchard

The Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid has acquired a 1929 painting by the Cubist artist María Blanchard, in a move that has angered some who claim that the work exceeds the museum’s purview.

Some in the Spanish art world have claimed that, because of its date, the painting belongs with the city’s Museo Reina Sofía, which has historically specialized in art from the 19th-century onward. According to a report by the Spanish newspaper ABC, the Prado’s purchase of the work, for which it paid €70,000 euros (about $84,900), breaks with a 1995 decree that distinguishes what the two museums can collect.

The Reina Sofía holds 15 works by Blanchard in its collection, whose chronological beginning, according to the decree, is 1881, the year of Picasso’s birth. (The Reina Sofía is home to one of Picasso’s most famous works, the monumental mural Guernica.) The Prado, on the other hand, is meant to collect works created prior to that date.

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Sofonisba Anguissola, Self-Portrait at the Easel,

[Read about the creation, history, and varied political valences of Picasso’s Guernica.]

“We are talking about an artist who is present in the Reina Sofía’s collections in a very significant way,” a spokesperson for the Prado told Europa Press. “For us, she is a central figure.” The Reina Sofía reportedly learned of the Prado’s acquisition of the Blanchard work in a meeting between Spanish museum officials this week.

The Prado has made a concerted move to present more art by women, though doing so has sometimes led to controversy. In October, the museum removed a painting from an exhibition devoted to work by 19th-century women artists in Spain because the piece had in fact been created by a man. At the time, the institution emphasized in a statement “the need to continue research on women artists from past centuries.”

In January, Miguel Falomir, director of the Prado, said that acquiring art by women would take precedent in 2021. A new research grant dedicated to gender issues and art history will also be launched.

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