The former first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos – not to mention avid collector of a huge quantity of shoes – also ‘collected’ art. Now it has been revealed that Marcos was briefly in possession of an early 19th-century work by Goya. The painting vanished under mysterious circumstances from the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (LACMA) – that is, until much of the Marcos’ property was seized by the Philippine government in 2014 – and the painting was rediscovered.
When the museum initially acquired ‘The Marquesa of Santa Cruz as a Muse’ from the Duke of Wellington dynasty in 1965, the acquisition was thought important enough to feature in Time magazine. But in 1977 the painting simply vanished from the museum’s guidebook, as well as all subsequent guidebooks both in print an online. This disappearance was entirely unreported at the time, no news articles were ever published on the subject, and there were no mentions as to the fate of the work in any meeting minutes from the period. But on the occasion of the museum’s 50th birthday, art critic and blogger William Poundstone decided to find out exactly what had happened to the work of art.
After much research into the subject, Poundstone discovered that the museum deaccessioned the painting in 1978, selling it to dealers at Marlborough London, who then apparently sold it on to Imelda Marcos. But exactly why LACMA chose to part with the piece is still unknown; except that critical opinion may have changed regarding the painting in the years following the glowing feature in Time Magazine, with the work subsequently falling out of favour with the museum.
Although history proves that the painting was always rather unloved: Even the Duke of Wellington, who sold the picture to the museum, noted that it was not a personal favourite – with some Goya experts speculating that the painting was not authentic.
The Goya canvas was seized last year on the grounds that it, and several other works of art were allegedly purchased with government funds. The paintings whereabouts are currently unknown, although Carolina Miranda of the Los Angeles Times believes it to be in a “Police warehouse? Or a home of a well-connected government bureaucrat perhaps”?