Industrialist’s Daughters Sue Barcelona To Keep Goya, El Greco, and Other Masterpieces

Julio Muñoz Ramonet's daughters are fighting for the art he left to the city.

The Muñoz Ramonet mansion in Barcelona. Photo by Jove, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The disinherited daughters of Spanish industrialist Julio Muñoz Ramonet are filing suit against Barcelona’s deputy mayor, Jaume Ciruana. Their statement comes several days after the city announced that its own suit against the four daughters for the return of paintings by Francisco de Goya, El Greco, and Diego Velasquez, among others, which their father left to the city upon his death in 1991, effectively writing out the presumed heiresses from his will. The city claims the daughters hid away the most valuable works from Muñoz Ramonet’s collection (which numbered around 800 works in all) during the nearly 20-year-long legal battle for control of the collection.

Citing “irreparable and grave damage,” to the daughter’s personal and professional reputations, their spokesman Sergio Azcona issued a four-point statement on Monday. It highlights what he characterizes as inconsistencies in the city governments actions and cites a basic lack of proof, never mind a substantiated accusation of the daughters’ wrongdoing. “Up until today, none of the four daughters have received notice from the judiciary of any criminal proceeding lodged against them,” he writes in Spanish.

He further points out a court’s dismissal of similar claims by city authorities in 1996, writing that the authorities are “guilty in their continued silence” about that previous decision. Azcona goes on to cite an inventory of the collection compiled by the city in 1998 that he claims does not match up to works referenced in the latest suit against the Muñoz Ramonet daughters. The press conference held last Thursday to announce Barcelona’s suit against the heiresses, “concealed that what the City Council now says the four daughters must hand over, is not the same as what was previously said to form the inheritance,” he writes.


Inside Julio Muñoz Ramonet’s house in July, 2013.
Via Barcelona City Council video.

In the statement’s final clause, he issues a grand overture concerning the fundamental human rights of the daughters and a sentiment on their behalf that their basic presumption of innocence is ignored in Barcelona’s suit. In other words, they’re going to have to prove the daughters actually took the artwork before they can begin to sue for its return.

It’s the latest chapter of a dispute which was rekindled in July, when a Supreme Court ruling ordered the women to turn over the family mansion and all its furnishings to Barcelona. When city authorities entered the premises, they found that the collection’s most prized paintings were nowhere to be found, as previously reported by artnet.

Two paintings have been recovered to date: El Greco‘s The Annunciation, and The Appearance of Our Lady of the Pilar by Goya. They were found in a private home in Alicante, where they were being offered for sale.

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