Is it a Goya? Prado curators keep changing their minds about who painted the museum’s famous ‘colossus’

The Colossus, one of the most famous paintings in the world, has once again been attributed to the Spanish artist Francisco Goya, the Museo del Prado in Madrid discreetly restoring his name to the work 13 years after removing it from the painting.

Museum curators, who for years said it was workshop work done by an apprentice, now say it is “attributed to Goya”, thus stopping calling it a autograph work.

The wording was chosen to “reflect the ongoing debate about the origin of the painting,” an anonymous source told the museum. Independent.

The authorship of the work has been in doubt for more than a decade, since Manuela Mena, the museum’s expert Goya, declared in 2008 that “this work is a shoddy work” by Asensio Julia, an obscure apprentice of the Spanish master. Mena claimed that the initials “AJ” were present in the corner of the painting.

But this change has always had its detractors, and some are now saying that the museum’s recent change of mind is in itself a problem.

In The newspaper, the art historian Peio H. Riaño wrote that the museum has restored the name of Goya “without giving any explanation, taking advantage of the presentation of its reorganization to sneak it quietly”.

Photo by Donations_are_appreciate, Creative Commons Zero CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication license.

For years, The Colossus would have been painted between 1818 and 1825 as Goya’s response to the French occupation of Spain after Napoleon’s victory in the Spanish Civil War. The giant towering over the landscape is said to represent Spanish efforts to expel the occupation force.

Donated by the estate of Pedro Fernández Durán, it has been part of the Prado collection since 1931. An inventory of the estate of Josefa Bayeu, Goya’s wife, on her death in 1812, lists a painting called The giant it is the same size as The Colossus.

The attribution to Goya has nevertheless been called into question since 1992, the date of the completion of the restoration work on the painting. But removing the tag identifying the painting as being in Goya’s hand was immediately controversial.

When Mena retired in 2018, other Prado experts were keen to restore the original attribution, according to the Time from London.

Francisco Goya, seated giant (circa 1814-1818).  Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Francisco Goya, Giant sitting (around 1814-1818). Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A recent exhibition of prints by Goya, “Goya and the Graphic Imagination” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, presented Sitting giant, an aquatint print by Goya closely related to The Colossus, using it as a promotional image.

The Met has acknowledged that “there is no consensus” The Colossus, but that “there is growing support for it to be returned to Goya”.

“If the painting is a studio work, the artist borrowed the figure of the Colossus from Goya’s print,” the museum said. “Given his imagination and originality, it seems highly unlikely that Goya would borrow the figure from someone else’s painting to use as the basis for his print.”

The Prado declined to comment on Artnet News, but a museum spokesperson told the Independent that “we changed the attribution as part of a reorganization of the 19th century works. It seemed like the right time to do it to reflect the ongoing debate over the authorship of the work, but we’re not saying it was from Goya. “

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