Vanishing Man, The

Episodes

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052016011520160116 (R4)

The Velasquez portrait, still in the possession of the Snare family, returns to Reading.

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?

Episode 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.

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.

Read by Siobhan Redmond

Written by Laura Cumming

Abridged by Isobel Creed

Produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.