Spain Explained

The ‘Dama de Elche’ comes home

Everyone recognises how important it is that historical artefacts are preserved and displayed for as many people to see, enjoyed and learn from as possible. But when one is taken out of the country from under your noses only days after discovery, it’s no wonder that there’s relief when it’s returned to its home again.

In August 1897 a young farmer, Manuel Campello, discovered the bust of the Lady of Elche. Little did he realise at first that what he’d come across by chance was a historic relic from Iberian times. Four days later, the city archivist, Pedro Ibarra announced the discovery.

At the time of the announcement is so happened that Pierre Paris, sub director of one of the exhibition halls of the Louvre Gallery happened to be visiting Elche. He was interested in purchasing the relic for the Louvre and on August 30th it was taken to Paris where it was exhibited until 1939.

When the second world war began, the bust was hidden to keep it safe. Eventually in 1941, after intense negotiation, it was returned to Spain. Although it was officially based in El Prado museum it was allowed out, on a couple of occasions to be displayed in its home town of Elche once more.

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