Critics Say the Prado Museum Has Illegally Muscled In on the Reina Sofia’s Turf by Acquiring a Painting by Modernist María Blanchard

Typically, works by artists born after 1881, the year of Pablo Picasso's birth, are strictly within the Reina Sofia's purview.

The Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain. Photo: Patricia J. Garcinuno/Getty Images.

Critics are blasting the Prado Museum in Madrid for acquiring a 20th-century Cubist painting which they say actually belongs in the city’s contemporary art museum, the Reina Sofia.

The Prado paid €70,000 (around $85,000) for La Boulonnaise, a 1929 work by the Spanish painter María Blanchard, according to the Spanish outlet ABC.

But the move has riled some commentators, who point to a 1995 law dictating that any works created after 1881 belong in the collection of the Reina Sofia.

The law, which includes a list of artists born before the cutoff year who are exempt from the rule, does not list Blanchard, who was born in March 1881. (The year that separates the purviews of the two collections is that of Picasso’s birth.)

A Prado spokesperson tells Artnet News that the acquisition was above board.

As the minister of culture has officially stated, the acquisition is absolutely legal and follows the corresponding protocols,” the representative said, adding that more details on the acquisition will be released by the end of March, when the museum hopes to put the work on display.

The ministry of culture did not respond to Artnet News’s request for comment.

Contacted by Artnet News, the Reina Sofía declined to comment. But a museum spokesperson reportedly expressed “surprise” at the Prado acquisition when interviewed by ABC, saying that Blanchard is a “central figure” in the museum’s collection. The institution owns 15 works by the artist, five of which are currently on display. 

Blanchard is known for her unique style of Cubism, which became more figurative and emotionally expressive as she developed her style. Despite the limitations of a serious physical disability, the painter became a key figure of the Parisian avant-garde, but her role in the movement has been largely overlooked. 

Interest in the painter’s work is on the rise as the art world increasingly re-examines underrepresented areas of art history, particularly women’s contributions. The auction record for her work was achieved in 2012 when a 1917 work, The Lute Player, sold at Sotheby’s London for $720,000. Her work will soon be featured in a commemorative stamp in Spain. 

In recent years, the Prado has been working to show more work by women. A landmark exhibition of Spanish Renaissance geniuses Lavinia Fontana and Sofonisba Anguissola marked the institution’s bicentenary in 2018, and the museum’s director, Miguel Falomir, has said that acquiring art by women artists will be a priority in 2021.

The institution is currently showing “Uninvited Guests,” an exhibition centered on Spanish 19th-century women artists. The museum was recently forced to apologize for including a work in the show that was misattributed to a woman. 

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