Narration of the arrival of Las Meninas to the museum by Lluís Permanyer

On this day, back in 1968, Las Meninas series, donated by Picasso, came to the museum. The journalist and essayist Lluís Permanyer tells us:

To have managed to be the first to publish the big news about the donation of the Picassian Las Meninas to Barcelona deserves an explanation.

Serie Las MeninasSerie Las Meninas

Las Meninas. Pablo Picasso 1957. Oil on canvas. 194 x 260 cm. MPB 70.433 | Las Meninas (Isabel de Velasco). Pablo Picasso, 17/11/1957. Oil on canvas. 24 x 19 cm. MPB 70.484

In the spring of 1964, Josep Palau i Fabre was received once again by the artist in Nôtre-Dame-de-Vie, the estate of the village of Mougins. The visit, just as he explained word for word in the book of memoires Estimat Picasso (Dear Picasso) (Destino, 1997), wasn’t long, but it turned out to be very intense.

Suddenly, Picasso commented to him: “Tell Barcelona that Las Meninas are for Barcelona”. Palau confessed that in an instant he suffered an explosive mix of happiness, perplexity and giddiness. He had become the bearer of good news, but one of imposing significance.  He didn’t want to make a mistake, so he wanted to make sure.  And he asked Picasso to clarify exactly to whom he should say it.

Quickly, without doubting, he replied: “To the people, to your friends…tell the people”.

Serie Las MeninasSerie Las Meninas

Las Meninas. Pablo Picasso, 15/11/1957. Oil on canvas. 130 x 96 cm. MPB 70.479 | Las Meninas. Pablo Picasso, 18/09/1957. Oil on canvas. 129 x 161 cm. MPB 70.463

Palau interpreted that the message about that formidable gift was, therefore, to the people, to the citizens of Barcelona, and not to the authorities or the art professionals.

On arriving in Barcelona, in a hurry -Palau explains- he “said this, before anyone else, to my friend Lluís Permanyer”. And I, as I was already writing for the newspaper El Correo Catalán, published the article on May 12th.  The headline could not be any other than: “Tell Barcelona that Las Meninas are for Barcelona”.

Article published in the journal El Correo Catalán on May 12 1968

I believe that Picasso was taking advantage of the opportunity offered by the fact that the rich combination of interpretative variations about the masterpiece by Velázquez was being exhibited abroad and therefore, it would be bureaucratically much easier to send the whole series to another destination, than to let it return to France.  The decision turned out to be the right one.

I believe that Palau chose me because of the security that my profile offered him: friends joined by the magic tie with Picasso. This was the key.

Serie Las Meninas

Las Meninas. Pablo Picasso. 15/09/1957. Oil and charcoal on canvas. 29 x 161 cm. MPB 70.460

On April 13th 1963, I was lucky enough to spend a whole afternoon chez Picasso: intense, funny, memorable. The merit wasn’t mine, and I owe it, and I’ll never forget it, to the generosity of the doctor Cinto Reventós and his son Cinto, also a doctor.  I was already writing for the magazine Destino, and I went to meet the father: I asked him to use his influence to get the artist to receive me.  He replied that he was growing old, and that he hardly went, but that in a few weeks his son planned a visit.  I then made this same request to his son and he answered me with the warmest and friendliest “yes”.

My parents wanted to accompany me, to take advantage in this way to take a small trip around France, as it was Easter and the trip was for four days.  Assumpció Gausa, my fiancée, should have joined us in the car, as we had officially planned to get married in the autumn of 1964.  But her parents didn’t give her permission. Things of that time…

Serie Las MeninasSerie Las Meninas
Las Meninas (infanta Margarida Maria). Pablo Picasso, 14/09/1957. Oil on canvas. 100 x 81 cm. MPB 70.459 | Las Meninas (María Agustina Sarmiento). Pablo Picasso, 20,26/08/1957. Oil and traces of red grease pencil on canvas. 46 x 37,5 cm. MPB 70.435

On returning, I wrote an extensive report.  It had been with the censors for five weeks, and without any answer, I feared the worst: that it would be prohibited.  It could have been a consequence of the irritation that Franco’s dictatorial apparatus suffered from the increasingly intolerable public Picassian presence in Barcelona: the headquarters of the College of Architects had been inaugurated as had the Museu Picasso (the name that had been expressly forbidden by the Ministry of Interior), that by the way held the official name publically of Museo Berenguer d’Aguilar: colección Sabartés. Assumpció knew Jaime Delgado, professor from the University of Barcelona, who at that time was head of censorship, and therefore, determined, she requested an audience.  He assured her that within two days it would be approved.  It was published on June 22nd and filled two pages of Destino, illustrated with our photographs, and entitled Horas con Picasso (Hours with Picasso).

One afternoon, I went to the secondhand bookstore Porter: I had been a customer and friend of the family for years.  As I went to pay, Miquel Porter, who was at the till, was speaking to a person.  Then he asked: “Do you know each other?”. We hadn’t met before. And he introduced me to Josep Palau i Fabre, who immediately commented:

-You must be the one who has just published this report about Picasso.

Serie Las MeninasSerie Las Meninas

Las Meninas. Pablo Picasso, 04/09/1957. Oil on canvas. 36 x 28 cm. MPB 70.445 | Las Meninas (Nicolasito Pertusato). Pablo Picasso, 24/10/1957. Oil on canvas. 61 x 50 cm. MPB 70.473

The friendship was sealed in this way with a solidity that never broke or even cracked, even though his friendships didn’t last.  We gave each other strong signs of fondness, which one day I hope to be able to explain in detail.

For this reason, Palau didn’t doubt –despite the fact that he cultivated a universal distrust, that I had the pleasure of never suffering, but really quite the opposite: I had to be the first to know the great news and to proclaim it to all and sundry.

Lluís Permanyer
Journalist and essayist

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