The scribbles of a "colossus of Western art" | Culture

The scribbles of a "colossus of Western art" | Culture


Any in-depth investigation of an artist's work brings out the essence of his way of creating and, often, the author's personality. In these scientific studies there are often surprises about authorship. Sometimes pleasant and sometimes not so much. Two curators of the Prado, Manuela Mena, world's leading expert in Goya, and José Manuel Matilla, head of Drawings and Prints of the Prado, have been working for five years on the most important investigation carried out so far on the painter of Fuendetodos. This Wednesday, the first of the five volumes devoted to the drawing of Goya, a project funded by the Botín Foundation, has been unveiled. It shows the most brilliant and personal outline of the artist, "a colossus of Western art", in the words of Falomir.

Letter from Goya to Martín Zapater.
Letter from Goya to Martín Zapater.

But it also serves to bring order to some attributions that had been given for good to date. The bad news affects six drawings: a portrait of the Boston museum, two of the Academy of Zaragoza, one of the Valencia Institute of Don Juan, another of a private collector and the San Francisco de Borja property of El Prado. The positive part attributes its authorship to a preparatory drawing for Prairie of San Isidroand a letter addressed to his intimate friend Martin Zapater headed by a heart surrounded by a peculiar network of blood vessels. This letter, owned by a private individual, has been acquired for the Prado by the Botín Foundation and the Association of Friends of the Prado. It will be presented to the public next Tuesday and has attracted attention during the presentation. Does this missive support the theory of Goya's alleged homosexuality? Manuela Mena responds: "It is impossible to deduce anything from the letters, they were very good friends but no one can go any further, it is said that a nephew eliminated the most committed letters but I think he did it for political reasons, not sexual ones".

Thousand drawings

The director of the Prado, Miguel Falomir valued the disregard of one of the drawings owned by the museum saying that when "the decisions are well argued, the content of the collection is being valued. It's good for everyone. In addition, we lose one (San Francisco de Borja), we win another (the preparatory Pradera) and add the letter. "

When the five volumes of the project have been published, a thousand drawings will have been examined. In the study presented in Santander, entitled Volume II (the first will be the last one and will include the conclusions), its 520 pages analyze 76 drawings, the Italian notebook with his illustrations and 242 letters. They are dated from the spring of 1769 and the one from 1771 to 1790, with examples of his picture books and the etchings of the Caprichos. They write in the catalog Virginia Albarrán, Juan Carrete Parrondo, Jose Manuel Matilla, Gudrun Maurer, Manuela B. Mena Marqués and Gloria Solache.

Angel head drawn by Goya.
Angel head drawn by Goya.

The scientific discoveries of this whole investigation, explain Mena and Matilla, certify that Goya had a unique capacity when producing images and that in something as personal as the drawing, oblivious to the commissioned painting, the artist overturned all his sense of humor and its capacity for innovation. The Italian Notebook It is full of unique tracks, according to Manuela Mena. "There we see that, for him, the basis of everything is drawing. In Italy he learns to seek perfection through the study of Anatomy. He is a fast, incredible and precise artist. Both at 25 years old and at the end of his life. "

José Manuel Matilla specifies that in the always controversial issue of disengagement, the study exposes the scientific arguments, but that the works are open to other possible contributions. "Everything is reflected in the reasoned catalog, including what we have considered that has not come directly from the hand of the artist. We do not make blurs in history. "

The analysis of Italian notebook It has also served to examine the roles and treatment of them by the artist. There are missing pages, but this has not been an obstacle to reconstruct the way in which he ordered them, the watermarks with which he finished them and many other details that speak of a world as fantastic as it is rigorous.

Is there a way to recover those lost pages? Matilla responds that everything can be reconstructed but that we must be very careful with those who believe they have these pieces. Account that is frequent the call of antiquarians or collectors assuring that they have in their power some of those lost pages. "It's not like that. Many are recent recreations or belonging to other artists. There is no doubt when it comes to Goya. "

The conclusion of the whole work, the remaining four volumes, seems to be extended in time beyond next year. When the project was presented, in 2014, 2019 was discussed as the delivery date. This will not be the case and it does not seem to worry much about Javier Botín, president of the Foundation funding the project, who recalls that for two decades they have collaborated with the Prado for the investigation of Spanish drawing (Rosales, Solana, Murillo). It is a project in which Perez Sánchez, director of the Prado, participated for six years, until his death in 1891. "Collecting, reproducing and studying each one of Goya's drawings has been for us the example of how a private institution can collaborate with a public entity such as the Prado. The result is a work of world reference, "he says.

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