Spanish court bans auctioning of Columbus’s letter to his son
MOSCOW, March 11 (RAPSI) – The Madrid High Court has prohibited the sale of Christopher Columbus’s letter to his son at a London auction, RIA Novosti reported on Wednesday.
Christie’s has assessed the letter, which Columbus wrote to his son Diego on April 29, 1498 and which is stored in the archives of a foundation run by the House of Alba, one of Spain’s noblest and richest families, at 21 million euros.
The House of Alba planned to invest the proceeds in the preservation of its huge collection of 22,000 items, which includes an anatomical sketchbook from the personal library of Leonardo da Vinci, letters by Michelangelo, the first drawing made by Columbus upon reaching America and his report to Queen Isabella.
After the death of María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, the 18th Duchess of Alba and the world’s most titled person, in November at the age of 88, her heirs decided to sell one of the exhibits to pay for the preservation of the invaluable collection of the House of Alba.
However, a Madrid court has rejected the sale on the grounds that the letter is an invaluable and intrinsic part of Spain’s economic, historical and cultural heritage and that a sale would run counter to the cultural heritage interests of Spain.
The court has asked the government to add Columbus’s letter to the list of items of cultural value to the nation and to guarantee “maximum protection” of it.
The House of Alba argues that this letter has “the least historical value” among the 21 Columbus letters in its hands. It has also made a copy of the letter to give experts an opportunity to continue studying it.
The Spanish Historical Heritage Council rejected the House of Alba’s request to sell the letter in 2013, and the Ministry of Culture reaffirmed that decision in 2014. The House of Alba filed an appeal against this decision in court.