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Goya: Portrait of Francisco Saavedra y Sangronis

Even exceptional artists have bad days. Art critic Robert Cumming on the relationships between a work by Goya and two very different politicians

Robert Cumming

Imagine yourself to be a rich collector. A dealer offers you two portraits. Price is not in issue but you can only buy one of them. The first is of an unknown man or woman by a famous artist, but far from his best work. The second is of a famous and interesting sitter, by a minor artist, but a gem of a work of art. Which do you buy?

I ask the question because it seemed to me to be pertinent to this portrait by Goya, and to the collector who gave it to the Courtauld.

Masterpiece or potboiler?

Guilt and discovery

Lord Lee and immortality

Reading list

Robert Cumming, ART: A no-nonsense guide to art and artists, pub. Everyman's Library, 26/10/2001 www.amazon.co.uk

Author's Biography

Robert Cumming has worked professionally in the art world for over 25 years, first at the Tate Gallery and latterly at Christie's during the golden age for the auction houses. He joined Christie's to set up and run Christie's Education, which grew into an international success with branches in London, New York and Paris. His interest is art criticism rather than art history. His audience is the public at large, rather than art specialists. He has written numerous books, three of which won literary prizes, and which have cumulatively sold over 1 million copies. His articles are published in ArtReview, The Times, TES, The Independent, International Herald Tribune, Daily Mail, Country Life, Christie's Magazine, National Gallery News. He serves or has served on the boards of a number of public and charitable arts organisations including: The Arts Council, The Council of the Friends of the Tate Gallery, The National Trust, The Contemporary Art Society, The Sir Henry Doulton Sculpture School, The Royal British Society of Sculptors, and the Buckinghamshire County Museum, and the Buckingham Partnership. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

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