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Record NG35/1

Archive reference number NG35/1

Medal awarded to the National Gallery by the Spanish Orden de las Artes y las Letras de Espana

Date 2004-2010

The accession consists of a medal designed by Antoni Tapies in a prsentation box, correspondence regarding the presentation ceremony, two photographs of the ceremony and a DVD documentary about the rescue of the Prado's paintings during the Spanish Civil War.

Record type File
Administrative history

During the Spanish Civil War the Republican government sought to safeguard the national art collection by evacuating a large number of works from Madrid, removing them first to Valencia, then Barcelona, and eventually to three secure locations in the Catalan Pyrenees. However, as Franco's Nationalist forces gained ground during the latter stages of the war, the art collection became increasingly vulnerable to aerial attack and the Republicans were forced to consider more drastic measures. In response to this situation the painter José María Sert established the International Committee for the Rescue of Spain's Treasures of Art, whose members were drawn from a wide variety of institutions, including the National Gallery which was represented by the Assistant Keeper Neil MacLaren. In February 1939 MacLaren and Jacques Jaujard of the Louvre travelled to northern Spain to discuss plans to evacuate the art collection out of the country. The Republicans agreed that a fleet of lorries should convey the art collection across the Pyrenees. Despite the dangers posed by Nationalist bombings and the difficult travelling conditions, the art works arrived safely in France and were then moved by train to Geneva where they were placed in the custody of the League of Nations. However, following the final defeat of the Republicans in March 1939, the Secretary General of the League of Nations returned the art collection to Franco's ambassador in Switzerland and the works were finally repatriated to Spain shortly after the start of the Second World War.

In January 2010 the Spanish Government held an event in Madrid to honour the work of the International Committee for the Rescue of Spain's Treasures of Art. On 25 January Susan Foister attended a ceremony at the Prado at which she accepted on behalf of the National Gallery a medal commemorating the Gallery's and Neil MacLaren's contribution to the International Committee. The medal was commissioned by the Orden de las Artes y las Letras de Espana and designed by Antoni Tàpies.

Custodial history

The medal was presented by the Orden de las Artes y las Letras de Espana to Susan Foister, Deputy Director, acting on behalf of the National Gallery. Dr Foister passed the medal and accompanying documentation to the Archives on her return from Madrid.

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