15 SEPTEMBER 1950, Page 12


SIR,—What are the ethics of this ? In the National Gallery, west vestibule, now hangs a large Murillo, "Christ healing the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda." In The Times recently it was stated that this picture is "one of eight large paintings of works of mercy . . . . painted by Murillo before 1674 for the Church of the Caridad in Seville. They were throughout the eighteenth century the most famous series of pictures in Seville. Five of the series' (including this one) were taken by Marshal Soult before August, 1812." It was added that three others of the series are in Washington, Ottawa and Stalingrad, and four are still in Seville. It seems, therefore, that this picture was rifled by a military commander from its rightful place and ownership—why should it not be returned there ? Is it because lapse of time nullifies offences, though they be still remediable ? The Elgin marbles were at least paid for (to some degree, however absurd) and brought out of the midst of great danger. Is there any mitigating circumstance about this Spanish robbery ?—Your obedient servant, D. G. DAVIES. Bletchington Rectory, Oxford.