BARCELONA – A museum in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia reported on Friday to a judge that it had found a missing piece of historic artwork that it was due to return to its monastery of origin after it was discovered to have been illegally sold.
The Lleida Museum had since the 1980s owned several dozen archaeological and artistic treasures from the Sijena monastery in the neighboring Aragon region, but a court had recently ruled that the nuns had sold the pieces illegally and that they had to be returned.
On Monday, technicians arrived at several museums in Catalonia to take back to Sijena some 44 murals, altarpieces and sarcophagi, but were forced to leave three pieces behind that they could not find, including an 18th century painting showing the immaculate conception housed in the Lleida Museum and two other pieces from the National Museum of Catalonia.
In a statement released on Friday, the Lleida Museum announced it had found the artwork and was now awaiting instructions to know when judicial police would be coming to pick up the piece, as the provisional sentence required.
“Since the 1970s, the artwork had been located within the Bishop of Lleida’s official quarters, alongside other artifacts from the old Diocesan Museum,” read the statement.
The President of Aragon, Javier Lamban, announced earlier in the week that he would be demanding that someone be held accountable for the missing artifacts.
The return of the Sijena pieces occurred in the midst of heightened tensions between the Spanish government and Catalonia, after the affluent region unilaterally declared independence and subsequently had its autonomy reeled back by the central state.