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Barcelona seeks missing Old Master paintings

The late industrialist Julio Muñoz Ramonet promised his collection to the city, but the most important works have been removed from his villa, authorities say

When authorities entered Ramonet’s villa on Carrer de Muntaner in Barcelona, they discovered that many important works promised to the city had been removed

City officials in Barcelona say they are seeking works by Rembrandt, El Greco, Vélazquez, Botticelli and Goya, which have gone missing from a prestigious private residence. The works were owned by the late industrialist Julio Muñoz Ramonet, who left his collection to the city in 1991.

The development is the latest twist in a long-running legal saga. Muñoz Ramonet died in exile in Switzerland in 1991; according to the terms of the will, the city council established the Julio Muñoz Ramonet foundation in 1995, which oversees the late cotton magnate’s properties and art collection.

But Muñoz Ramonet’s four daughters reportedly contested the will, saying that it should be annulled; in March 2012, the Spanish supreme court ruled in favour of the city.

When authorities entered Ramonet’s villa in Barcelona on 25 July, immediately after the court gave them the keys, they discovered that most of the major works had been removed. The city council official, Jaume Ciurana, tells The Art Newspaper: “We are checking the lists of the works with the contents of the residence and then, if—as it seems—some works are missing, we will ask the Supreme Court of Catalonia to take the necessary steps to recover most of the works.”

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the daughters, who could not be reached for comment.

A major cache of Old Master paintings

Several key 17th-century works in the collection were once owned by the textile manufacturer Ròmul Bosch i Catarineu. In the 1930s, Bosch i Catarineu offered his collection as security for a loan from the Spanish government; the Union Industrial Algodonera conglomerate brokered the arrangement.

Bosch i Catarineu died in 1936; in 1944, Muñoz Ramonet bought the Union Industrial Algodonera group of companies, and the collection of paintings subsequently became his property. The Barcelona board of museums purchased a selection of these works in 1950.

A 2001 report by El Pais says that around 225 works from Bosch i Catarineu’s collection, including paintings by José de Ribera, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, eventually ended up in Muñoz Ramonet’s hands.

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