'Colossus' painter finally identified

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Spain's Prado Museum yesterday named the workshop assistant believed mostly likely to have painted "Colossus," a work that was once attributed to Francisco de Goya y Lucientes.

The museum had announced last year that it no longer considered the painting to be a genuine Goya. In a statement, the museum's chief conservator, Manuela Mena Marques, said the museum has decided the real artist is probably Asensio Julia, who worked as Goya's apprentice.

"Seen with adequate light, the poor technique used in its light and color becomes manifest, as does a marked difference between 'Colossus' and other masterpieces attributed to Goya," she said.

While Julia never achieved the status of Goya as an artist, he is today "recognized as Goya's principal disciple," Mena Marques said.

"Colossus" is a large canvas of a giant bursting through a cloud above terrified, fleeing villagers.

During his career, Goya produced many works depicting the horrors of war, including a series of etchings on Spain's fight against Napoleon, whose troops invaded in 1808. Many art critics felt Colossus depicted that horror — with a left hand clenched in a tight fist and a helpless, civilian population trying to run to safety below.

The painting entered the Prado's collection in 1931 as part of an important bequest, which listed it as a Goya.

The painting has Goya-like characteristics, such as bold brush strokes, finely observed detail of regional clothing and a central character solidly filling the canvas.

It is not clear whether Fernandez Duran, the owner of the bequest, felt it should be listed as a Goya along with the other works he had from the same painter — or whether he actually believed it to be the artist.

At the time of the donation, Spain was going through political and social upheaval. During the 1936-39 civil war, the painting — along with the entire Prado collection — was evacuated for protection against bomb damage.

By the time things stabilized, the country was under the military dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, with many of Spain's leading artists and academics living in exile abroad.

The work has always been one of the Prado's major attractions, but doubts about its authenticity began to surface in the early 1990s and grew when the museum unexpectedly excluded the painting from its blockbuster show "Goya in Times of War."