Girl gets ball rolling for landmark art exchange

A girl on a ball is setting out on the long trek from Moscow to Madrid. An impossible feat? Not when the lass in question is Pablo Picasso’s Girl on a Ball, and the trek a long-awaited art exchange between Moscow’s Pushkin Museum and Madrid’s Prado.

­Picasso’s “Girl” once belonged to the famous American writer and art aficionado Gertrude Stein, whose rich collection of paintings included works by such luminaries as Matisse, Cezanne and Renoir, to name just a few.

Back in 1913, Girl on a Ball was acquired by the legendary Russian collector of impressionist work, Ivan Morozov. After the Revolution, however, it became part of the State collection of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

From September 17, the painting will take up temporary residence in Spain’s iconic Prado Museum, renowned for its unsurpassed collection of works by Velázquez, Goya and El Greco, whom Picasso especially loved.

“It was crucial for us to present the Girl on a Ball at the Prado because its author – the genius Picasso – was at the helm of the Prado for some time, as the museum’s director,” head of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Irina Antonova, explained.

But, as they say in Russia, “a holy place is never empty”, and the space temporarily left by the absent Girl will be filled by another masterpiece, the Portrait of Prince Balthasar Carlos by Diego Velázquez. The Prado will give as good as it gets.

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