Manuela Mena Marqués
Goya Curator at the Prado:
'To believe in Goya micro-signatures is madness...'
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HAVE SEEN EIGHT THOUSAND WORKS ATTRIBUTED
TO GOYA AND ONLY FIVE WERE AUTHENTIC.
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Mena, chief curator of the Prado, gave yesterday a conference in the Camon
Aznar Museum and defended the necessity to review the work of the Aragonian
Photograph of the Prado in Madrid by A. Holloway. Used by permission.
By Mariano Garcia.Zaragoza.
Article published on November 18, 2005 in the Heraldo newspaper,
I began at El Prado I have done many things in the pinacoteque. During
this time everything that entered the museum went through my hands,
and there hasnt been a day in which one or two paintings attributed
to Goya didnt come in. I calculate that I have seen between 7,000
and 8,000 works of this type.
(that is on Monday) a gentleman from Mexico showed me three paintings
that had been offered to him for sale. None was a Goya. Of the almost
8,000 pieces that I have contemplated during that time, the ones that
can be considered as authentic Goyas can be counted on the fingers of
my hand: a drawing, three pieces that I have bought for El Prado
the way Manuela Mena began yesterday, the chief curator of the 18th Century
Painting section at the Prado Museum. Her conference in the Camon Aznar
de Ibercaja, her second in the cycle titled The Real Goya,
and she gave clues to which, on her judgment, might be the criteria to
establish the authorship of these works. Nonetheless she evaded references
to some of the recent polemics generated around this author.
About the hypothesis defended by Don Juan Jose Junquera concerning the
Black Paintings as not being of Goya, but rather from his
son, Mena shows herself prudent.
do not say neither YES, nor NO. I only say that one must have respect
by Junquerass ideas, that is based on documents and that have been
brought to light things that no one had until now had imagined.
And about another recent polemic, like the one sprung around the authorship
of La Lechera de Burdeos (The Milkmaid of Bordaux), Manuela
Mena did not even speak.
Insofar of what concerns works in the Prado collection - she said,
"you must understand that I cannot make any commentaries. We are
now doing a work that is going to take a long time and which results will
then be seen. And those of the Zaragoza Museum, she asserted, "Among
them there are very good Goyas, some not so good and even others that
no longer appear in any of the studies of the work of this painter. This
one is an artist that must be reviewed deeply, even when this might cost
an enormous amount of work. To me, particularly, there is a painting that
I like very much and it is Virgen del Pilar," one of those
youthful works that very few give value to, but in which you can find
She did show herself very belligerent about the possibility that Goya
made micro signatures in his works, a hypothesis that several specialists
are presently studying, likewise among some university art departments,
To believe in these micro signatures is madness," She stressed,
"An authentic madness. That happens with painters like Rembrandt
or Goya. With that type of technique, with that usage of the pictorial
matter, one can, if you insist, see anything at all in those painting.
It may well be, given the case, to even read 'El Quixote.' It is absolutely
false that Goya did micro signatures in his paintings.
Mena inclines towards another type of method. In order to study
Goya," she assured in her conference, "One must begin to study
the perfectly documented works, which do not offer any type of doubts.
And, once you are in front of them, to study the pictorial technique,
the range of colors, the composition, the use of light, which might perhaps
be the most distinctive element of the quality of an artist.
There are, according to her judgment, between 150 and 200 exclusive characteristics
of Goya as a painter, and when you face a painting that is wanted to be
attributed to Goya, either you find them or not. And there isnt
anything else. Thats the way one must establish the authorship of
example she brought forth an example relative to portraits, the way in
which the hair and the forefront meet the hairline.The great immensity
of artists paint the forefront first, and later, on top of it, the hair.
Goya did it backwards.
And, she concluded, "...as a rule of thumb, something pasted, dirty
and without light can never be a Goya. He was an artist of an impressive
(copyright Heraldo de Aragon, S.A. 2005)
web site goyadiscovery also carries this article with added photographs and more information
about the authentication debate between the prado experts and other art
scholars and scientists.
further information about Goya 'micro-signatures' view our information
on the work of Prof. Perales here.
* Dr. Sarah Symmons touches upon this subject in our 2006 interview with her here.
• For further reading on Mena's saying that the Goya painting Milkmaid of Bordeaux is by Rosario Weiss, go to the Milkmaid page here.