Unknown Goya Self-Portrait Discovered Languishing in French Museum

The version held in the Musée Goya in Castres is now thought to be just a copy.

Francisco Goya, Self-Portrait with Spectacles(circa 1800) at the Musée Bonnat

The Restoration Service of the Museums of France (RSMF) has authenticated a rare self-portrait by the Spanish master Francisco de Goya owned by the Musée Bonnat in the small town of Bayonne, in Southwest France, Le Figaro reports (see $50 Million Rembrandt Selfie Authenticated).

The authentication of Self-Portrait with Spectacles (circa 1800) is sensational news for the already well-reputed museum, but not so much for the neighboring Musée Goya, in the southeastern town of Castres, which holds a version of that same painting, thought to be the real deal and now deemed a mere copy.

The RSMF ruling has sparked a dispute between representatives of the two museums that unraveled publicly during broadcast on France 3.

“The analysis allowed us to prove that the Castres painting, which has long passed for an original, is in fact a copy based on the Bayonne painting, which is authentic,” said an unnamed curator from the Musée Bonnat (see Scholar Denies Authenticating ‘Lost Leonardo’ Found in Swiss Vault).

“Not at all, it’s a ‘response,’” said the chief curator of the Musée Goya, Jean-Louis Augé. “The self-portrait in Bayonne is the preparatory painting, there are many preparatory paintings, for the major painting that is in Madrid, Charles IV of Spain and His Family,” he claimed.

Augé was referring to Goya’s 1800 masterpiece, in which he depicted himself painting the Royal family on the left corner of the canvas, in a brilliant nod to Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656).

No Re-Opening Date

But the public won’t be able to enjoy the newly authenticated Goya for quite some time. The Bayonne museum has been closed since April 2011 due to renovation works, and the re-opening date hasn’t been scheduled yet.

The Musée Bonnat was founded in 1901, when the painter and collector Léon Bonnat donated his life-long art collection and the building that contained it to the small City of Bayonne, which currently has 45,000 inhabitants.

Bonnat’s collection was nothing short of breathtaking, running the gamut from Greek and Egyptian antiquities, to paintings by Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and El Greco (see Newly Authenticated Rubens Heads to the Royal Academy). Expanded subsequently with the help of donations, the Bonnat collection now comprises 6,500 works and has one of the most important drawing collections in the country, including works by Leonardo Da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Raphael, and Michelangelo.

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