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PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Over 200 paintings by Pablo Picasso and an all-star cast of great masters he admired -- Titian, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Goya among others -- went on view in Paris on Wednesday.
Organizers of the "Picasso and the Masters" exhibition spent three years negotiating with museums around the world to borrow some of their most famous paintings for the show, which presents works by Picasso next to the masterpieces that inspired them.
"It's a celebration not only of Picasso, a great genius of the 20th century presented within a pantheon of masters, but of an intimate dialogue between him and his fathers, his peers," wrote co-curator Anne Baldassari in the exhibition catalog.
Madrid's Prado museum was among the most generous, lending seven works including one of its star attractions, "La Maja Desnuda" by the great Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, and pieces by Diego Velazquez and Titian.
"This is an enormous loan, in quality and in quantity. Each work is incredible ... It's as if the Louvre was lending the Mona Lisa," Baldassari told French newspaper le Journal du Dimanche.
London's National Gallery loaned 11 of its possessions, including "A Woman bathing in a Stream" by Rembrandt, while the National Gallery of Art in Washington sent masterpieces including El Greco's "Saint Martin and the Beggar".
French media have reported that transport costs for the 4 million euro ($5.45 million) exhibition alone cost about a million euros, while a similar sum was spent on insurance.
The main bulk of the exhibition, which runs until February 2, 2009, is at the Grand Palais, a vast glass-roofed hall wedged between the Champs Elysees avenue and the River Seine, and there are two associated exhibitions in two major Paris museums.
At the Louvre, French master Eugene Delacroix's "Femmes d'Alger" is shown surrounded by Picasso paintings it inspired, and at the Orsay museum there is a similar arrangement around "Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe", a seminal work by Edouard Manet.
Museums in France, Spain and elsewhere loaned dozens of Picasso paintings for the exhibition and many of his most celebrated works are included, though not the most famous of all, "Guernica". That is at home at Madrid's Reina Sofia.
Reporting by Estelle Shirbon, editing by Paul Casciato