The modernist painter Isidre Nonell (1872-1911) sold very few works throughout his career. He lived, fundamentally, from what his family, who ran a soup factory. But fate has wanted Woman figure, one of the paintings by this author of paintings in which gypsies, poor and marginalized from society appear most of the time, is one of the first assets seized from Fèlix Millet that are sold to compensate those harmed by the plunder of the Palau de la Música.
The oil – 60 by 51 centimeters and painted in 1909 – has recently been sold by the Sala Parés for a net price of 254,000 euros, as EL PAÍS has learned. The money will be entered in the courtroom and will serve to cover part of the 23 million of the looting. So much Woman figure What Portrait of the Sardà girl – 92 by 48 centimeters and painted by Ramon Casas in 1893 – have been deposited in the National Museum of Art of Catalonia (MNAC) since April 2012, when the examining magistrate of the Palau case ordered its embargo.
“The court has commissioned us to find a buyer for these sales, but the operation is in process, it has not yet materialized,” explains the director of the gallery, Joan Antonio Maragall Garriga. Palau sources, however, take the sale for granted. According to Maragall, as it has been impossible to exhibit the work in their century-old gallery, they have been the ones who have searched the wide portfolio of their clients for potential buyers. The court allowed the interested parties to have access to the reserves of the Barcelona museum, where the two paintings still remain.
In the case of Casas’s work, which is valued at around 350,000 euros, the Barcelona gallery owner assures that there is still no buyer who has shown interest in the painting. “But I hope that one day it can be sold. We’re on that”.
When the works were deposited with the MNAC in April 2012, it turned out that Millet’s lawyers had requested permission, two years earlier, to sell Nonell’s painting for 220,000 euros. They assured that they had a buyer and that this way they could pay the legal expenses of the process. But the new managers of the Palau – with the lawyer Joan Llinares at the head – blocked the sale when they considered that the price for which they wanted to sell was lower than the work, which they calculated for about 300,000 euros.
The examining magistrate of the Palau case, Josep Maria Pijoan, agreed in 2012 to seize Millet’s assets; among them, the works of Casas and Nonell. Four months later, and suspecting that the former president of the Palau could keep more works of art in his mansion in L’Ametlla del Vallès (Barcelona), he ordered it to be searched. The police seized around thirty works of art and valuables and 43,000 euros in cash. Among the works, landscapes, still lifes and portraits, those of leading Catalan painters such as Ramon Casas, Joaquim Mir, Rafael Llimona, Francesc Gimeno, Francesc Miralles, Josep de Togores and Rafael Durancamps, among others, predominate.
The sale of the Casas y Nonell paintings began to take shape a few months ago, when the president of the Palau, Mariona Carulla, contacted the owner of the Sala Parés – where Millet had bought the paintings – to ask their value. Maragall told him that the former president of the Palau had acquired another painting in 2005 –The mayor’s garden, a 1924 oil-on-canvas landscape by Joaquim Mir — of which no trace has been found. The Mossos are now trying to find a clue to locate him.
The sale of the works of art has been authorized by the Tenth Section of the Audiencia of Barcelona with a minimum appraisal price. Other assets – such as the properties owned by Millet and his right-hand man at the Palau, Jordi Montull – will be auctioned.
In 2020, the Supreme Court confirmed the sentence in the Palau case and set the looting at 23 million euros. Since then, the Audiencia de Barcelona – which tried the facts and issued the initial sentence – has executed it. It is not being easy. In part, due to the enormous workload it entails: an official dedicates half a day’s work to this matter, while the attorney for the administration of justice —who carries the burden in the execution of sentences— “solves the writings almost daily. that enter ”, according to judicial sources
But the recovery of the stolen money has been complicated, above all, by the maneuvers of self-confessed looters. The court has ended up urging the opening of a criminal case against them for hiding goods and valuables (Millet) and the collection of rents (Montull). For now, nine million euros have been recovered, judicial sources explain. As in the case of Nonell’s painting already sold, these amounts are consigned to the court’s account and then they will revert to the injured parties and especially to the coffers of the Palau de la Música.