A man wearing a protective mask takes a photo in front of El Prado museum. | Juan Medina


Madrid's Prado museum abruptly withdrew a 19th century painting from an exhibition of Spanish female artists on Wednesday night after an online art sleuth showed the work in question was actually painted by a man.

The "Invitadas" exhibition, which translates as female guests, opened last week with the aim of reflecting on the role of women in Spanish art between 1833 and 1931.

The temporary exhibit of 134 works - the Prado's first since Spain's galleries reopened in June after a nationwide coronavirus lockdown - included a poorly preserved canvas identified as "Family Scene" by an Andalusian female artist, Concepcion Mejia de Salvador.

Proudly displayed in its own room, the deeply scratched painting, which depicts three women looking up from domestic chores at an old man sadly bidding farewell to a boy, was supposed to highlight the historical marginalization of female artists.

But art blogger Concha Diaz was immediately suspicious of the painting's authorship and followed a paper trail of historical records to the work's true identity: "The Soldier's Departure" by Adolfo Sanchez Mejia.

Providing the final clue, the artist's distinctive swirling signature can be seen faintly in the bottom right corner.

Thanking Diaz for her work, the Prado said the blunder highlighted the need for further research into female artists from centuries past