Art market

Doubts cast on authorship of Goya’s “Black paintings”

University of Madrid discovery

Spaniards have been rocked by an academic’s claim that Goya’s most extraordinary—and to our taste, most modern—works, his “Black paintings”, are not by him, but by his son. Professor Juan José Junquera of the Complutense University of Madrid, proposes in Arte de Ver magazine that the works that are considered the cornerstones of Goya’s late oeuvre, the 14 terrifying murals of witchcraft and violence at his country house, the Quinta del Sordo, could not be by Goya, because they are on two storeys, and in his lifetime, it had only a ground floor. By implication, therefore, the “Black paintings” on canvas would also not be by him. Scholars object that Goya’s son showed little artistic talent and probably never even followed up on his art training, describing himself as a “capitalista” or farmer. Furthermore, when the son died in the 1850s, various artists swore that the murals were by Goya and that foreigners were continually asking to see them. The Prado, which owns “Black paintings” such as “Saturn devouring his children”, said that they respected Professor Junquera’s views, but they still considered the paintings to be by Goya. Juliet Wilson-Bareau, a leading Goya scholar living in London, said that the “Black paintings” are in very bad condition, having been heavily overpainted, and that this would be a good moment to subject them to rigorous technical analysis.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 137 June 2003