Hissy fit between Baroness and Archduchess

THE future of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Museum in Madrid is uncertain, believes one of the late Baron von Thyssen’s daughters.

The museum is doomed while Von Thyssen’s last wife Carmen Cervera remains at its head, said Archduchess Francesca von Habsburg.

Censure for her stepmother came in the wake of the sale of The Lock, the 1824 work of the British painter, John Constable. Auctioned by Christie’s last week, it made €24.8 million for the Baroness, former beauty queen Carmen ‘Tita’ Cervera.

The bid was made by telephone and the identity of the picture’s new owner has not been revealed.

She sold it reluctantly, the Baroness claimed, but like everybody else she has been hit by the economic crisis and needs to raise cash.

The baron, who died in 2002, ceded his collection of 1,600 paintings to Spain which is now housed in the Madrid Art Museum.  Tita retained 250 paintings, including The Lock, for her private collection which she loans free of charge to Spanish museums.  Her recent request for a government grant was turned down.

As well as causing a family rift, the sale prompted the resignation of Sir Norman Rosenthal, a trustee of the Madrid museum.  Selling was “morally shameful,” Sir Norman complained, accusing the Baroness of lacking “understanding” and “appreciation” of art.

The archduchess waded in by accusing Cervera of possessing “dubious” taste.  “Her only qualification is ‘Miss Spain 1961’,” she sniffed last week.

“Francesca is an imbecile who just wants publicity,” responded Tita.

She has no intention of selling more paintings, the Baroness informed the media last week, even though she is entitled to sell 10 per cent of the collection. 

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