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Historians and art experts address the great loss to a nation's artistic heritage in wartime

November 23, 2007

  • Salvador Ordóñez Delgado, president of the Ménendez Pelayo International University (UIMP), and Anabel Morillo, managing director of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, brought the course attended by almost 50 professionals to a close today.
  • Lecturers at the fourth annual Baroque School analyzed the artistic pillage of the Nazi era and that which Spain underwent during the invasion of Napoleon’s army.

Seville, November 23, 2007. – "Wars cause extensive collateral damage and also attack culture, which in reality is the only thing that can put an end to these conflicts. Therefore, we must bear in mind that what matters is not who wins or loses a war, but rather the cultural wealth and heritage that is lost at those times." With this reflection on the grave impact of armed conflict on culture, Salvador Ordóñez Delgado, president of the Menéndez Pelayo International University (UIMP), brought the fourth annual Baroque School to a close. The course, entitled Artistic Despoilment in the West: The Unredeemed Heritage of Seville (1810-1813), took place this week at the Hospital de los Venerables in Seville.

The UIMP president was joined by Anabel Morillo León, managing director of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, Antonio Miguel Bernal, Professor of Economic Science at the University of Seville, and José Luis Martín Navarro, director of UIMP in Seville.

Over the course of the week, nearly twenty experts analyzed the uncontrolled looting that took place during the confrontation between Spain and the Napoleonic army, as well as that which affected thousands of Europeans during the Nazi army’s persecution of the Jews.

Ricardo García Cárcel, Professor of Modern History at the University of Barcelona, Ignacio Cano Rivero, museum curator for the Andalusian Government, and Enrique Valdivieso, Professor of Art History at the University of Seville, focused their lectures on the reign in Spain of the so-called Intrusive King, Joseph Napoleon, and the state of war his invasion unleashed, marking the beginning of the despoilment of a large portion of the nation’s artistic heritage that would continue into the 19th century. This situation, together with the heritage management policies of the time, put Spanish artistic heritage in danger, even though it led to the formation of European collections which served to present Spanish art.

The other historical scenario, the repression of the Jews by the Nazi army, and the resulting seizure of their legacy, aroused great expectation among lecture attendees. Sarah Jackson, historic claims director of the Art Loss Register in London, and Inge Reist, director of the Center for the History of Collecting in America at the Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library of New York, explained the process for recovering a missing work of art: evidence analysis, tracking, negotiations, etc. It is laborious, takes a lot of time, and does not always reap the desired results. In addition, Shauna Isaac, managing director of Sage Recovery, the London-based center that specializes in the recovery of objects looted during the Nazi regime, showed how technology has become an excellent tool for recovering these works of art. Her skillful command of new technologies has served to put her at the helm of Trace Looted Art, the world’s largest database of works of art seized by the Nazis.

The fourth annual Baroque School ended with the lecture by Gary Tinterow, curator in charge of the 19th-Century Art Department of the Metropolitan Museum of New York. Tinterow underscored the influence of 17th-century Spanish painting on the revolution of French impressionism. He thus pointed out how Murillo’s Inmaculada (1678), more widely known as the Inmaculada de Soult, painted by the artist from Seville for the Hospital de los Venerables, was the painting most copied at the Louvre Museum, in Paris, in the 19th century.

Gary Tinterow organized and commissioned the Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting exhibition, which, with over 240 works, became the first major exhibition to examine the influence of 17th-century Spanish painters on the works of French artists in the 19th century.

The Baroque School arose out of an agreement of collaboration between the Focus-Abengoa Foundation and the Menéndez Pelayo International University, and materialized in the formation of two schools with a triennial program, one devoted to the Baroque and the other to Energy and Climate Change. All courses are included in the academic program of the UIMP in Seville. The Hospital de los Venerables in the capital city of Seville has thus become a place of encounter and reflection, developed by professors and researchers of international standing. The schools are set up as university courses, each with a duration of 30 elective hours.

Created by Abengoa in 1982, the Focus-Abengoa Foundation holds as its mission putting Abengoa’s policies for social initiative into practice. It is a non-profit organization with aims of general interest, and focuses its efforts on assistance, education, culture, science and technological research and development. The foundation has become a valuable instrument within the culture of Abengoa, and has proven its capacity to enhance both the professional and human development of its employees, as well as address the demands of society as a whole, by managing intangible assets with an impact that is returned and multiplied in Abengoa’s values and business aims.

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