<i> From Reuters </i>

Spain has paid $6 million to recover a Francisco Goya masterpiece that it said was exported illegally to Britain, Christie’s auction house said Thursday .

“The Marquesa de Santa Cruz,” valued at about $14-$15 million, had been expected to fetch a record price at a Christie’s auction Thursday, but Christie’s said the work will be handed to the Spanish government by Lord Wimborne, a British aristocrat who bought the painting in 1983 for a reported $183,600.

The highest price ever paid for a painting is $10.4 million. The J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu spent that sum in April, 1985, for the “Adoration of the Magi” by 15th-Century Italian artist Andrea Mantegna.


Spanish Culture Minister Javier Solana told a news conference in Madrid on Thursday that the Goya painting would be exhibited in Madrid’s Prado Museum starting next week.

Solana said the government raised half the money to purchase the Goya and private institutions and individuals put up the other half.

Spanish authorities claimed the Goya painting had been illegally exported from Spain in 1983 with forged export-license papers. The planned sale of the Goya masterpiece was thrown into doubt in March when Britain’s High Court ruled the Spanish government had an arguable case that the painting was illegally exported and dismissed a joint application by Christie’s and Wimborne to keep the painting.

Solana said Spain contacted every museum of international repute in the world to warn them they would be subject to legal disputes if they bought the painting.

The 1805 portrait of the Duke of Benavente’s 20-year-old daughter was offered to the J. Paul Getty Museum for $12 million in 1983, but the museum withdrew from negotiations after learning that the export documents were in doubt.

The painting was sold in 1983 by an exporter in Spain to an unknown buyer in Switzerland. It was later acquired by Overseas Art Investments, a Liberian-registered company owned by Wimborne’s family trust. Wimborne has been described by the Spanish government as “an innocent third party” in the affair.

In London, Wimborne told a news conference he had been horrified to learn of the doubtful authenticity of the painting’s export documents. He said he had bought the painting in “good faith” from a Spanish businessman and art dealer in April, 1983. The dealer had bought the painting through a contract, which valued it at a mere $160,000, he said.