Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Is this picture representing Santa Rufina, the martyr patron of the city of Seville (Spain) a real Velazquez or some painting by the Velazquez School ? Don't ask the people from Seville because if you doubt its provenance they will kill you. To keep in their beloved city their beloved Santa they followed last year the lead of the Duchess of Alba (yes the same family as the infamous Duke who slaughtered the Dutch Protestants in the 16th century) who gave $1500 to a campaign in favor of the purchase of this picture that was put on auction by Sotheyby's in 2007 as a Velazquez (made in 1628-29).

Sevillans poured money to a special fund created to help the Focus-Abengoa Foundation to get hold of the picture.
And it did for the princely sum of $ 17 million. So the Sevillans would be really pissed off if you raised some serious doubts about its authenticity. Nevertheless it is exactly what did some experts just after the last bid at the auction. They pointed to the poor quality of the light on the picture, to the lousy drawing of the right hand of the Santa, to her missing left arm and to the lack of facial features and so on.

In 1990 the Santa had been sold by Christie's as a Velazquez to an unknown buyer for $ 8.9 million. Even at this time the attribution was questioned. Seventeen years later, the lucky buyer of the 90s found more enthusiastic people to pass the Santa on and pocketed a huge profit.

In the end everybody was happy, the initial acquirer of the 90s who doubled his money, the city and the people of Sevilla who got their Santa and Christie's people who took their fee. It would be interesting to know what Velazquez in his grave makes of this sale : a fake or a genuine painting ? Leave a comment to tell me what you think....

Velázquez (or Velásquez), Diego (1599-1660). Spain's greatest painter was also one of the supreme artists of all time. A master of technique, highly individual in style, Diego Velasquez may have had a greater influence on European art than any other painter.

Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velasquez was born in Seville, Spain, presumably shortly before his baptism on June 6, 1599. His father was of noble Portuguese descent. In his teens he studied art with Francisco Pacheco, whose daughter he married. The young Velasquez once declared, "I would rather be the first painter of common things than second in higher art."

An other Velazquez, Antonio Gonzalez,
earned a century later (1723-1793) a reputation as one of the most talented Spanish painters of his generation. In 1746 he was awarded a grant from the committee of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando to study the Old Masters in Rome, and was appointed to the workshop of Corrado Giaquinto.

He also painted several decorative works for the Palacio Real, and was appointed Court Painter by King Fernando VI of Spain in 1756, who admired the artist's characteristic freedom of execution and brilliant use of colour.

However it would be a mistake to think that his work can fetch the same prices as the ones of his more famous predecessor. In July 2008, this
Pentecost: a bozzetto * -an oil on canvas 19 x 15 1/8 in. (48.3 x 38.4 cm.)- fetched only $ 20,995 on auction in London whereas it had been estimated to make between $ 15,000 and 23,000.

Bozzetto (s., bozzetti, pl.) is a specific type of study or sketch. To be a bozzetto the study and a resultant finished work (inspired by the bozzetto) must be done in the same medium. Bozzetti are generally small : they can be just sketches, exploratory in their character or they can be complete visual statements- a genuine artwork complete with an innate aesthetic.

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