Goya painting pitches Spanish baroness against son in ˆ6m court battle
Date: 26 May 2011 | | Views: 2719
Borja Thyssen claims his mother took works by Goya and Giaquinto that his adoptive father left to him
Source: The Guardian, by Giles Tremlett
One of Europe's wealthiest and most fractious families has returned to feuding mode after the son of the Spanish art collector Baroness Carmen Thyssen took her to court in a battle over two paintings – valued at ˆ6m (£5.2m) – by Goya and Giaquinto .
Borja Thyssen had previously visited the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in Madrid with his lawyer and a notary to demand it hand over Goya's A Woman and Two Children by a Fountain. He says that both the Goya and Giaquinto's The Baptism of Christ were gifts to him from his deceased adoptive father, Baron Hans Heinrich von Thyssen.
The baron adopted Borja after marrying his mother, a former Spanish beauty queen and ex-wife of Lex Barker, who played Tarzan in 1950s Hollywood. She was the Swiss-Hungarian industrialist's fifth, and final, wife.
But Borja believes he was cheated out of part of his inheritance. The baron's art collection forms the backbone of the museum in Madrid. Borja said he had been promised the paintings before the baron died eight years ago.
His quest for proof lead him to rifle through his mother's papers at her Madrid home, taking a film cameraman with him to record the moment. The film was later shown on Spain's Antena 3 television station. Sources at the museum said both pictures are now back in the baroness's hands.
Baroness Thyssen – who only recently publicly named Borja's biological father, a Spanish advertising executive – does not get on with her son's wife, but has also recently fallen out with many other people. The director of the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in Malaga, which displays paintings from her personal collection, resigned last month just three weeks after it opened.
Director María López and art historian Tomas Llorèns, who was on the board, resigned together after an executive manager was put in overall control. "The museum no longer has, in my opinion, the degree of historical and artistic credibility that one would hope for in a museum of this kind," Mr Llorens said.
The baroness has also recently fought with both Spain's culture ministry and with her daughter-in-law, Francesca Habsburg. That row started because the baroness wanted to sell The Lock, by John Constable in the Madrid museum. The museum owns much of her late husband's collection but also has temporary rights to part of her personal collection.
Francesca Habsburg and fellow museum patron Norman Rosenthal used their vetos to prevent the removal of the Constable. Habsburg declared in a letter published by El Paìs that her stepmother was "unreasonable, and completely isolated from reality".
Part of the baroness's collection hangs in a special extension to the Madrid museum that was built by Spain's culture ministry seven years ago. It has reportedly been valued at £600m.
An 11-year free loan finished in February, with the baroness agreeing to a one-year extension. Spain's culture ministry had wanted a two-year loan while it negotiated the purchase of the collection. "This postponement is only prolonging the agony of these seemingly endless negotiations," Habsburg complained, claiming that the baroness had reneged on earlier promises – which the baroness denied.