Spanish minister orders inquiry into museum's handling of 'Guernica'

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Pablo Picasso's anti-war masterpiece was shown in galleries across Europe and the world without any damage being done. But now back in Spain, it seems Guernica may have come to some harm.

Spain's culture minister, Cesar Antonio Molina, has ordered an investigation into possible "irregularities in the movement" of the huge black-and-white canvas. Mr Molina told the Spanish parliament he had ordered the inquiry following claims in the Spanish daily ABC about the way Guernica had been handled in May 2006.

The paper claimed Guernica had undergone an X-ray and its mountings had been changed in a delicate operation. It also published pictures showing the fragile state of the canvas.

The painting, which came to symbolise the brutality of war through its depiction of the 1937 Nazi air attack on the Basque town after which it is named, is held in the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.

Mr Molina asked for the report to be ready in the next few days, when specialists will be called in to determine if the painting had been handled properly. A spokesman for the Reina Sofia Museum said the painting was dusted once a year and taken off the wall for cleaning every 10 years.

In a statement, the museum said: "This operation was carried out last year in May and there was no risk of danger to the work."