The United Nations has had to issue an apology after an article on its website claimed that Spanish Republicans were responsible for 1937 fascist bombing of the town of Guernica, immortalised in the painting by Pablo Picasso.
The UN’s Gift Management website included an entry that said Picasso’s iconic artwork - a reproduction of which is hung at the United Nations building in New York - was “an artistic protest against Republican atrocities during the Spanish Civil War."
In fact, it was Nazi and Italian fascist forces that bombed Guernica in 1937, killing 130 people. It later emerged that as well as supporting Franco against the Spanish Republicans, Italy and Germany were testing munitions that would later be used during WW2.
Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, apologised for the mistake at a press conference.
"During the weekend, the United Nations was informed that the UN Gift Management website incorrectly attributed to the Republic of Spain the historical atrocities of Guernica, described in Pablo Picasso's tapestry," she said.
"The Republicans were the victims, not the perpetrators. We regret the mistake and apologise to the people and the Government of Spain,"
The tapestry that features on the UN building was commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller in 1955, and subsequently ceded by his widow to the United Nations. It is a reproduction of the work and was carried out under the supervision of Picasso himself.
On April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the German Condor Legion and the Italian Legionary Aviation - who fought alongside the rebel side against the government of the Second Republic - carried out an air strike on Guernica, a town of just 5,000 inhabitants.
Picasso’s painting, which depicts the bombing of Guernica and was completed in 1937, has gone down in history as a denunciation of the horrors of war.
When Secretary of State Colin Powell went to the United Nations to present the case of the war against Iraq in 2003, the UN tapestry was covered with a blue cloth during the press conference.
It was claimed that this came at the request of news crews covering the event, but sources told journalists that the Bush administration had arranged for it to be covered up.