Five years after becoming Spain's head of state, king Felipe VI now has his portrait hanging on a wall in the Ministers' room in the Congress, for which the legislative body has paid the painter Hernán Cortés from Cádiz 88,000 euros (£75,000; $98,000). Reports say that the Congress reduced the quote initially presented by the famous artist, who's already got other works displayed there, believing it to be too high. I don't know if it's normal to haggle with an artist over the price of a work, even one of the head of state, but it is still a respectable amount and it's a fact that the Spanish state has spent various millions of euros on this type of luxury expense. The custom of the portrait for posterity has deep roots in the authorities at the state level, but also in the autonomous communities. In the case of Cortés, moreover, portraits by him of members of the Royal Family and various former prime ministers like González, Suárez and Calvo-Sotelo appear in various official buildings.
Although on occasion there have been debates in the Cortes about what to do with the portraits, there has never been a consensus to remove them or to limit the price they end up costing and only the minor parties have proposed bills on the matter. In the end, it's the sitter themselves who ends up deciding the cost since tradition means they're allowed to choose the artist to depict them. As such, former Congress speaker José Bono's was one of the most expensive at 82,600€, whilst, on the other hand, Manuel Marín's was around 25,000€, as he'd opted for a photo by Cristina Garcia Rodero. Closer to this latter figure are those done of Jesús Posada and Federico, also as Congress speakers. The cheapest of all was that of the Basque Patxi López (PSOE) which "only" cost 15,000€, although it is true he only held the position of speaker of the Congress for a few months.
At a time when transparency and regulation of public spending are more necessary than ever, Marín appeared a pioneer by including the photographic portrait as a new genre on the official walls and austere, something which, despite his apparent pedantry, he could be fairly make a show of. The economic crisis meant some excessive lavishness which could be seen as a provocation was reduced. That culture hasn't stuck around and a lot of behaviour now is similar to that before the great crash. This is a mistake and, for many people in precarious situations, an offense. What happens is that, in the end, in these matters, there are too many people who look the other way or lack the necessary sensitivity for these new times.