The owners of the only portrait of Botticelli in Spain choose to exhibit it in Valencia in front of Madrid and Barcelona
‘Portrait of Michele Marullo Tarcaniota’, by Botticelli, at the Prado in 2004.Paco Torrente

Portrait of Michele Marullo Tarcaniota, the only portrait preserved in Spain of the Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli (Florence, 1445-1510), will be exhibited this summer at the Museum of Fine Arts in Valencia. The Guardans-Cambó family, owner of the work, declared an asset of cultural interest (BIC) in 1988, has signed a loan agreement with the Ministry of Culture of the Valencian Generalitat for the work to remain in the Valencian art gallery for three years, where It will be exhibited in the central room dedicated to ancient painting: Gothic altarpieces and the beginning of the Renaissance.

The work was loaned in 2004 to the Prado Museum, where it remained until 2017. Two years later, the family gave it to the Trinity Fine Art gallery to put it on sale during the fair. London Frieze Masters. It came out for 27.3 million euros, a price lower than the value of the piece, but did not find a buyer, mainly due to the limitations established by being a BIC, a protection figure that requires the permanence of the work in Spain, with some exceptions how to take part in international exhibitions, among others. In 2016, the Spanish State valued the painting at 60 million euros. Last January, Sotheby’s sold in New York for 76 million euros Young man holding a locket, one of the three portraits painted by Botticelli.

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The Valencian Minister of Culture, Vicent Marzà, has shown his gratitude to the Guardans Cambó family and has assured that “this jewel of the Italian Quattrocento will be exhibited very soon”. Predictably, the work will arrive on June 28 or 29 in Valencia. The loan provides for the possibility of the portrait participating, in the interest of the family, in international exhibitions during the term of the agreement.

Botticelli's portrait in London in 2019 when it went on sale at the Frieze Masters.
Botticelli’s portrait in London in 2019 when it went on sale at the Frieze Masters.Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP

Rafael Guardans-Cambó, on behalf of the family of the descendants of the politician and patron, has expressed that it is an “honor” for them that the portrait, “with which the family has lived so intimately for almost a century, falls on the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts in Valencia, undoubtedly one of the most important in Spain ”. Francesc Guardans Cambó has expressed himself in the same way. According to the oldest of the 14 grandchildren of the Catalan politician, the agreement shows that “Spain is more plural than Madrid and Barcelona”, referring to the fact that his grandfather already gave his collection to the Prado and the MNAC, located in those cities.

“It is a loan, not a donation. This means that during this period we can dispose of the painting, and we can exhibit it for periods of time in another place, even outside of Spain “, points out Francesc Guardans Cambó, who recognizes that the ultimate intention of him and his brothers continues to be” to finish selling the work ”. “For this reason”, he adds, “it is much better that the work is visible, that people keep it in mind, that it is not locked up in a warehouse. We are very happy that the painting is once again available to the public and in a prestigious institution, such as the Museum of Valencia ”.

In 1929, the exiled politician and businessman Francesc Cambó (Verges, 1876 – Buenos Aires, 1947) bought the painting and since then it has been part of his personal collection. His daughter Helena always kept it in the family’s personal patrimony and currently the grandchildren are its owners. After the death of Helena Cambó last January at the age of 91, her chair on the board of the MNAC Museum has not been occupied by anyone in the family. In addition, the contrary position of most of the brothers towards independence is known, which Guardans summarizes on the other side of the phone: “Like my grandfather, we are Spanish and Catalan.”

Helena Cambó, daughter of Francesc Cambó, in 1990, together with Botticelli's work that will be deposited in the Museum of Fine Arts in Valencia.
Helena Cambó, daughter of Francesc Cambó, in 1990, together with Botticelli’s work that will be deposited in the Museum of Fine Arts in Valencia.RICARDO GUTIÉRREZ

As for the fact that they have not chosen to deposit it in the same conditions at the Prado or at the MNAC, where there were already works by his grandfather, the eldest of the Guardans assures that the Valencian museum “has shown great interest and they are very excited ”, but does not reveal whether it was the museum that contacted the family or the other way around. Just add: “Those things happen.”

The Valencian art gallery has received special attention in the last two months after being the choice of the German collector Hans Rudolf Gerstenmaier, who died on January 30 in Madrid. In his will, he bequeathed his prized collection of flamenco art made up of 41 works, including the valuable Virgin of Cumberland, by Rubens, to the Museum of Fine Arts in Valencia. This city was also chosen by CaixaBank to install its headquarters after its decision to leave Barcelona as a result of the you process.

The Valencian general director of Culture and Heritage, Carmen Amoraga, has stated that “the effort made in recent years to improve the quality of the museum’s collection is bearing fruit and reinforcing the image of the center.” The new director of the museum, Pablo González Tornel, has given it greater dynamism.

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The one portrayed in the Botticelli painting who will visit Valencia is Michele Marullo Tarcaniota (1453-1500), a Greek poet, military and humanist who ended up living in Florence protected by the Medici family and surrounded by artists and writers. He married the learned poet Alessandra Scala and on April 12, 1500, when he was returning home from a trip to Volterra, he drowned crossing the Cecina River on horseback, in a pouring rain. Marullo and Botticelli shared times, friendships and intellectual concerns and, in this portrait, the Renaissance painter underlines the authenticity, realism and identity of Marullo with the gesture of his countenance, demonstrating the ability of painting to show the psychology of people .

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