Goya on My Mind


She spoke of her “trepidation” about challenging attributions as Goya’s pictures change hands for millions of pounds: “If a picture turns out to be by an assistant, of course the value collapses. “Artists in the shadow of a great master [can] illustrate [?] his imagery, his style, his handling of paint, but the work is not infused with the unique individuality and strength of the original creator.

(Dalya Alberge, “Dozens of ‘Goyas’ are not by the master’s own hand, claims art historian,” theguardian.com, 12-28-19)

(I wonder if the historian meant “imitate” instead of “illustrate”?)

I experience a moment of fatigue when the trafficking in trophy art is punctuated by an expert’s reserve over whether or not attributed paintings are “infused” with the “unique” spunk and slobber of an oldtime picture-factory boss such as Goya.

My uninformed speculation is that some of the sand kicked up occasionally over how purely authentic a work is may encourage what I theorize could be a misconception about how the old masters operated in their antique world.

Could it be that a major concern of a successful painter as he presided over his studio was to provide a steady supply of pictures to his clamoring patrons? And that delegating certain drawing and brushwork to helpers and apprentices came naturally, so that any number of pictures rolled out over his signature were touched to a greater or lesser degree by other hands? Should the value of such works necessarily “collapse”?

I don’t disparage the sleuthing that well-meaning historians perform in their researches into the validity of attributions. What’s tedious is that the astronomical sums of money in play (“millions of pounds”) tend to corrupt scientific discussion and elevate disputes into headline cheese.

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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