Karela Fry

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Going, going, Goya

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aturn Devouring His Son,  by Francisco Goya, in Museo del Prado in Madrid

A man has been arrested in Mumbai for possession of a painting which has never left the Prado Museum in Madrid.

In reckless disregard for the journalistic technique of checking the story, TOI reports the story exactly as the police told it:

Unlikely as this may sound, the police may have recently stumbled upon a priceless painting during a search for firearms at an Oshiwara real estate agent’s residence. The agent, Majeed Sultan Khan, told the cops that it was a 19th century masterpiece by celebrated Spanish painter Francisco Goya. The police have sent it to the archaeological department to verify its authenticity.

The police suspect that the painting may have been stolen. They have arrested Khan for keeping it in his possession without any documents and have seized the canvas.

Not even a check of Wikipedia, which would have removed in one paragraph the whole basis of the story:

Saturn Devouring His Son is the name given to a painting by Spanish artist Francisco Goya. It depicts the Greek myth of the Titan Cronus (in the title Romanised to Saturn), who, fearing that he would be overthrown by his children, ate each one upon their birth. The work is one of the 14 so-called Black Paintings that Goya painted directly onto the walls of his house sometime between 1819 and 1823. It was transferred to canvas after Goya’s death and has since been held in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

There was no original canvas. The original is not an oil painting. It has not been reported stolen from the Prado.

Times is the pits of reporting, but there are no words which can describe DNA; it checked the web and lifted the contents of Wikipedia into its report, but did not think about what this could mean. Perhaps the pay structure at DNA explains the quality of its reporters.

IE at least bothered with the journalistic due diligence:

WHILE raiding a property dealer for illegal possession of weapons, the Oshiwara police stumbled upon what they were told could be a rare 19th Century painting by renowned Spanish master Francisco de Goya, which is worth around Rs 20 crore.

The police are now in touch with the Spanish Embassy to verify whether the painting is an original. However, there are no reports of the painting being stolen.

[S Rupwate, senior police inspector of Oshiwara police station] said when they examined the frame, they found it to be old. Based on this, the police arrested Khan for theft.

The story is about a bumbling police team who raided a home on suspicion and were reluctant to leave empty-handed. The operative part of the report from DNA reads:

According to the police, they received a tip-off that four arms were hidden in the Oshiwara flat of property dealer Majid Khan, 32. On inspection, the cops learned that Khan had the required licenses for two rifles and two air guns.

On further inspection of the premises, the police found an old painting inside a huge box. On being questioned, Khan said them it was a painting by Goya, handed to him by a dealer who had asked him to get a purchaser ready to buy it for Rs 20 crore.

This is a clear case of the police over-reaching, especially when some one has the wrong name, and of lickspittle journalists failing to spot a case of police harassment. The press is not there to preserve anyone’s freedoms or to guard over democracy. It is there to make a quick buck.

15 Feb, 2012

Mumbai Mirror follows up the action, but still does not spell out the news:

When Mumbai Mirror contacted the museum in Spain, an amused official said they had been inundated with calls from India since morning. Worry not, he said with a chuckle, the priceless masterpiece is “still safe, and not stolen”.

But the cops, after talking to officials at Prado, are already convinced that the painting is a fake. “Still, we are waiting for the report from Sion,” Rupwate said, adding that Goya’s son had made certain replicas of his father’s work, and they’re trying to check if it could be one of them.

Rupwate said that when they examined the 3.5×4.5 ft frame at Khan’s home they found it to be very old. Based on that, they arrested Khan for copyright violation.

Notice the changing story about the arrest? The refusal of the police to let go of the “case”? In a country where graft is a daily occurrence what does this tell you about the motivations of the police?

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

February 14, 2012 at 4:34 am

One Response

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  1. It is curious that the reported charge is “copyright violation”. I wonder whose copyright Mumbai police think is being violated? I guess the RIAA was there and located a little © on the bottom corner next to the bar code. Or maybe he was uploading images of the “forgery” to Megaupload? Oh, I guess not.

    Russell Jones

    July 29, 2012 at 8:41 pm


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