885 Artworks Missing from Madrid’s Prado Museum

Museum officials have no idea where the works are. For real?

Museo del Prado in Madrid Photo: Brian Snelson via WikimediaCommons

Museo del Prado in Madrid
Photo: Brian Snelson via WikimediaCommons

Spain’s Museo del Prado has lost 885 artworks, according to El Pais. The newspaper, citing a report by Spain’s Audit Court, claims that the Madrid-based institution was missing 926 works at one point, 41 having been found between 2008 and 2012. Those works had been misplaced during a restructuring period of the country’s national collections held at the Prado and the Reina Sofia museum of contemporary art.

In their report, the court cites, “Lack of sufficient human resources,” as the culprit behind the missing artworks. They have demanded an internal review and continued searches within the museum’s collections and its lending history to identify the whereabouts of the missing art.

A spokesperson for the museum was not terribly alarmed about the issue. She said that many of the works were likely lost in fires or during various wars long ago. However, there has been no solid proof of exactly when and where the missing works were lost and thus they remain on the inventory lists. “Suspecting [that they were lost] is not enough; if there is no factual evidence that they were destroyed, we cannot take them off the inventory,” she told El Pais.


The grand exhibition hall at the Museo del Prado.
Photo: Schnäggli, via Wikimedia Commons.

For its part, the court seems to agree that most were misplaced or destroyed many years ago. Consequently, no one is expected to be held responsible for the lion’s share of the lost art. The number of missing artworks from the Prado’s collection has steadily increased from 350 in the 1980s and about 500 in the 1990s, a nice linear progression towards the around 900 now missing.

The court claims that “the high number and dispersion” of works from the Prado collection to other museums and institutions is partially to blame for the continual leakage of artworks. As the museum told the paper, the volume of art loans “makes oversight particularly difficult.”

One of Europe’s largest collections of art, the Prado currently has holdings of a total of 27,509 objects and artworks, according to a 2012 inventory, with 15,480 drawings and prints, 4,408 pieces of decorative art and sculpture, with paintings making up the bulk of the remainder.

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