Occasional Painting – El Coloso (The Colossus)
Title: El Coloso (The Colossus)
Oil on Linen
Size: 115cm x 105 cm
Museo del Prado (Madrid, Spain)
When is a Goya not a Goya? When one art historian says it isn’t, apparently.
While there has been debate over who painted the famous work for a few years now, a new study, which is being endorsed by Manuela Mena Marqués, head of 18th century art at Prado, claims that while the work is certainly ‘Goya-esque’, it was probably painted not by the master, but by one of his students, Asensio Juliá, who assisted Goya on his frescos for the San Antonio de la Florida church in Madrid. The initals A. J. can be seen in a corner of the painting, which would seem to indicate that a person with the initials A. J. painted it. Although some art historians believe that the initials could simply represent previous owners of the work.
Of course this will now mean that the painting will be viewed as a ‘lesser’ work — indeed, the study indicates that the painting employs a “poverty of the technique, light and colours.” Harsh words, indeed.
No longer a Goya, El Coloso has been stripped of its masterpiece status, at least for some. But I’m sure the debate won’t end here; the new study will be scrutinized closely, and those art historians who disagree will pick it apart like vultures, and defend the work as a Goya until some new piece of evidence is discovered.
So now we have a situation that throws the sometimes absurdity of the art world into striking relief. Some believe El Coloso to be a Goya, and therefore a masterpiece, others believe it to be in the style of Goya, therefore a good painting, but not a great one. Who decides whether a painting is great? Even if Asensio Juliá did paint it, should that change the value of it, both artistically and monetarily?
I for one think it would be cool to have a masterpiece painted by someone named AJ. But that’s just me, and I’m clearly not an art historian, I just (sometimes) blog about them.tniapcco