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?
The Velasquez has been restored to Snare but he has now vanished - until the portrait is advertised for show on Broadway in 1860. The Reading bookseller has fled to America.
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.
Snare is awarded damages by the Edinburgh court but, despite this, is nowhere to be seen.