The judicial battle between Catalonia and Aragon for the site of the sacred works of Sijena, since December again in Huesca, is one of the most mediatic cases that have recently taken place regarding the legitimate ownership of cultural property in Spain. There are, however, other open disputes that continue to generate controversy for decades .
Last November, for example, an investigation of more than twenty years was published about the doubtful obtaining by Francisco Franco del Pazo de Meirás and of other properties and heritage in Galicia. Meanwhile, in Barcelona, the City Council has spent more than 25 years in litigation for the artistic legacy of businessman Julio Muñoz Ramonet, a valuable collection that left the city as an inheritance and that his descendants refuse to deliver in full.
Disputes between communities, expolios of the dictatorship and a long and hereditary process folletinesco . Three examples in Spanish territory of works of art and assets of disputed property. Obviously, they are not the only ones, nor the oldest ones. History is full of monuments, paintings and other cultural objects that have changed hands over thousands of years and are still being claimed today.
After the Second World War, several international conventions demanded the restitution of thousands of works looted during the war and the Nazi regime. But there are still many unresolved cases of that time, not to mention the pieces of classical or indigenous art that today fill the great museums around the world. Over the last few decades, some of them have returned to their place of origin, while others may never do so, either because of their fragility or because of the national demand in their current locations.
War booties, illegal excavations, robberies, coerced sales … Each case is a world, and in it we must take into account the intentions of a great variety of actors, both stales and individuals. We make below a list of 14 of the best known works of property disputed in the world.
Surely the most disputed work of all: the friezes of the Parthenon of Phidias. Part of them form one of the most prized collections, and also controversial, of the British Museum . Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin, moved them to London at the beginning of the 19th century with the supposed intention of safeguarding them. There are many voices, however, that claim that the count sacked the Parthenon and took the pieces illegally. One of the first, Lord Byron, called the English “profane” and robbed the gods. The Hellenic government has been claiming its return since it became independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1830. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“Beauty has come,” says her name. And in Germany it seems to stay. The polychrome bust of Akhenaton’s royal wife is the protagonist of the Neues Museum in Berlin. It was discovered by Ludwig Borchardt in 1912, who claimed to have reached an agreement with the Egyptian government to share the rights to his discoveries. From Egypt, however, it is claimed that the archaeologist lied about the value of the sculpture to bring it to Europe . There have already been several attempts to restore it, such as the former Egyptian Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass, who also unsuccessfully claimed other pieces of value such as the Rosetta stone. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Philip Pikart / CC BY-SA 3.0.