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The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velazquez by Laura Cumming

bookshelves: winter-20152016, published-2016, nonfiction, art-forms, books-about-books-and-book-shops
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from January 07 to 16, 2016

 

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06x8vq2

Description: Laura Cumming charts the obsession of a 19th century Reading bookseller with a portrait of Charles I - painted when the Monarch was a young man on a visit to Madrid. The Spanish genius Velasquez painted very few pictures, so did John Snare discover a long-lost treasure? And if so, where is it now?

This is a story about the intense emotions that great art can provoke - passions that sometimes verge on the irrational and which transcend considerations of value. John Snare's conviction about the painting he bought evolved into a dispute with those who had more money, power and influence. In a sense, the missing Velasquez became a battleground for class war and the individual against the establishment. But at the heart of the story lies a work of art, created with such skill and delicacy that it inspired the fiercest of feelings and continues to exert its mysterious pull to this day.


Episode 1: An auction bargain ignites a humble bookseller with a lifelong obsession

2/5: It is 1847 and John Snare invites the public to admire his Velazquez portrait

3/5: The Lost Velasquez is put on show in Edinburgh at the beginning of 1849. But soon Snare finds himself having to fend off not just challenges over the portrait's authenticity,but also overownership.

4/5: The Velasquez has been restored to Snare but he has now vanished - until the portrait is advertised for show on Broadway in 1860. The Reading bookseller has fled to America.

5/5: In 1888 a Velasquez portrait of Prince Charles is reported as being lent to the Reading Art Museum by the widow of John Snare. Somehow the picture has returned to Britain.

Laura Cumming: how Velázquez gave me consolation in grief – and set me on the trail of a lost portrait.