MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's Prado museum received its biggest private donation in decades on Tuesday with the gift of 12 medieval and Renaissance works by Spanish artists.
The paintings and sculptures include "The Virgin of Tobed", the central panel of the altarpiece of a church in northeastern Spain and an exceptional example of Catalan Italo-Gothic painting attributed to Jaume Serra.
The collection, donated by a businessman from Barcelona in a ceremony attended by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, will join paintings by Spanish masters such as El Greco, Velazquez and Goya in one of Europe's most venerated museums.
"These aren't times of lavish state spending, so this donation is generous and tremendously timely," said Jose Pedro Perez Llorca, president of the Prado's board of trustees.
Spain is mired in a deep crisis which has forced the government to apply severe spending cuts to try to meet public deficit targets agreed with its partners in the European Union.
"The Prado is the memory of an ambitious nation that has never been stopped by hardship," Rajoy said.
"This donation enriches in an extraordinary way a museum...which is an indispensable element of our image as a country," he added.
The patron, Barcelona businessman and engineer Jose Luis Varez will receive the rare honor of having a room in the Madrid museum named after him.
The museum, which had 2.8 million visitors last year, did not say when the newly donated works will go on show.
(Reporting by Teresa Larraz; Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Paul Casciato)