Homeward bound, 400 years later

August 25, 2017 | GET MORE : Life

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An art collector and a banker helped return a centuries-old painting that was long thought lost to its home in a Spanish museum.

Wealth is more than money. As a regional managing director for Ascent Private Capital Management of U.S. Bank, I'm proud when I see the ways our clients use their wealth to enrich communities – especially through the arts. 

Art is a passion of mine as well. In 2014, I started a nonprofit organization, American Friends of the Prado Museum, which serves as a fundraising arm for my native Spain's famous Prado Museum. The Prado, in Madrid, is a jewel that holds the works of many European and Spanish master painters, including nearly half of those by Diego Velázquez, who painted for the royal court in the 17th century. 

Earlier this summer, I was excited for AFPM to have helped bring a long-lost Velázquez work back home thanks to a donation from an American art historian and collector, William B. Jordan (pictured above). With AFPM's help, Jordan donated as a long-term deposit Velázquez's Portrait of Phillip III – a move that signified its return to Spain four centuries after its completion.

The painting, which depicts 17th-century Spanish monarch Phillip III, was a preparatory work of a later Velázquez masterpiece that was destroyed in a 1734 fire. Previously only written descriptions of this portrait – a work crucial to the visual history of Spain – were thought to have survived. Jordan, who specializes in Spanish art, had purchased the piece from a London auction house in 1988 with the suspicion that it was by the hand of the famed Velázquez, but didn't have his hunch confirmed until an analysis determined nearly 30 years later that it was an original.

Jordan said he treasured finding and owning this work for many years and enjoyed seeing it return to Spain at the Prado, where it has the context and appreciation it deserves.

A work of outstanding quality, Portrait of Phillip III, which went on public display June 5,  contributes to completing the museum's representation of Velázquez as a royal portraitist and cast light on one of the key works of the artist’s early period at the Spanish royal court.  

For me, having grown up in Madrid and visited the Prado as a kid, this was a homecoming party I could never miss. 

Jose Peris is regional managing director of Ascent Private Capital Management of U.S. Bank. This story was originally published in May and updated in August after painting went on display, which was also covered by The New York Times in the Aug. 11 story, "Even for Philanthropists, Museums Can Make Art a Tough Give."