Francisco de Goya was a fascinatingly versatile artist of the late 18th and early 19th century, so much so that art historians to this day wade through his works and occasionally wander upon inconsistencies. A Spanish painter, draughtsman and printmaker, Goya worked for a number of Spanish kings and in a number of styles. Beginning his career painting in late Rococo style, he eventually moved on to Romanticism and is credited with helping to initiate the early stages of impressionism. With such a variation of styles and content, it is no wonder that even the most famous paintings attributed to the artist would come under fire eventually, even pieces with a semi-traceable pedigree.
The authorship of several paintings long attributed to Goya have been questioned over the years, even the “black paintings” said to have been executed by Goya in the last years of his life at “the House of the Deaf Man.” These invalidated doubts aside, it has recently been discovered that one of the most loved paintings attributed to Goya, ‘the Colossus’, is in fact a piece executed by one of his assistants. Curators at the Prado in Madrid have long wondered about the authorship of this strange piece. It has been written about at length in even the most scholarly pieces of art history because of its figurative and mythical depths but, as it turns out, this history is in dire need of a revision.
The newly attributed authorship for ‘the Colossus’ is an astounding discovery because of the sheer notoriety of the painting. The Guardian’s Giles Tremelett notes that it was one of the most famous paintings in the whole of the Prado collection and that it has come to be seen as an iconic image of Spanish popular resistance to the Napoleonic army during the Peninsular wars. It remains a striking image, but the separation of the piece from Goya’s name will surely damage its overall reputation. The Prado’s expert curators and researchers drew their conclusions after a recent restoration that exposed a faded set of initials, art supplies of a lower quality than Goya would have used, hesitant brushstrokes and an inferior sense of color exhibited. The painting is now thought to have been executed by Asensio Julia, the main assistant to Goya during the latter years of his life.
This discovery can be a lesson to all art collectors and owners. A long neglected piece could be more important than originally thought or a piece long thought to have been created by a notable artist may not have been after all. This is why seeking an expert opinion is important when it comes to discovering the true value of any long hidden or overlooked treasure. MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a great resource in terms of research and consultation, and our staff would be more than happy to help you discover the hidden value or story your piece may be harboring.
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Muller, Priscilla. “Goya (y Lucientes), Francisco (Jose) de,” in Oxford Art Online.
Tremlett, Giles. “Goya’s Colossus Actually Painted by his Assistant, Says Expert,”
in Guardian News Online.
Webb, Jason. “Goya’s ‘Colossus’ Painted by Apprentice, Prado Says,” in Reuters