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Art Humanities: Masterpieces of Western Art Spring 2012 W1121 Instructor: Ellen Hoobler Francisco Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828)

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Art Humanities: Masterpieces of Western Art

Spring 2012 W1121

Instructor: Ellen Hoobler
Francisco Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828)

  • Goya was born in the village of Fuentetodos, about 55 km from Saragossa, the capital of Aragon. His family moved back to Saragossa, where Goya was apprenticed to the painter José Luzán Martínez, the leading teacher in town. He befriended his fellow students the Bayeu brothers (and later married their sister, Josefa).

  • His early paintings are mostly religious, and he received various commissions for religious works in Saragossa (a fairly conservative and religious town).

  • His brother in law, Francisco Bayeu, got him his first royal commission in 1775: a set of 60 oil painting cartoons for tapestries for the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Barbara. The tapestries were for the Pardo, the residence of King Carlos III, and depict scenes of contemporary life, aristocratic and popular pastimes.

  • In the late 1770s, he created a series of etchings after the works of Diego Velázquez in the royal collection, which he apparently printed at his own expense.

  • In 1780, Goya was elected to the Royal Academy and was appointed deputy director of painting in 1785. In 1786, he was given the title of painter to the king. Goya became acquainted with the Crown Prince and Princess Carlos and María Luisa, who would later become king and queen after Carlos III’s death in 1788.

  • Goya suffered a serious illness in 1792-93, which left him permanently deaf. Many scholars have pointed to this illness as a turning point in Goya’s career. Before, his work was lighthearted; after, it became dark and satirical. This is not entirely true, however, for Goya continued to be a favorite at the court and painted many commissioned portraits and other works.

  • Carlos IV’s cousin, King Louis XVI, was sent to the guillotine in January 1793. Spain declared war on France the following March.

  • Goya became the director of the Royal Academy in 1795 and was raised to the level of first court painter in 1799. He announced a series of 80 etchings for sale in February 1799, Los Caprichos, which he published independently (i.e., not for a commission). Goya advertised the series as a “collection of prints of capricious (i.e., whimsical) subjects,” but they present a variety of satirical and supernatural images we would not necessarily equate with whimsy. Although he claimed in his announcement that the images were of general types of people, many of the figures were recognized as specific portraits. Goya pulled the series from the market after only a few days, and he later turned the plates over to the king in return for a pension for his son.

  • Goya continued to be a popular portrait painter at this time. One of his most famous paintings is the portrait of the family of Carlos IV (1800-01); the painting originally hung in the Royal Palace.

  • Between 1802-07, Goya completed several commissions for Manuel Godoy, a royal favorite and former First Minister. He probably painted the Maja desnuda for Godoy’s private collection of paintings of nude women (the painting is recorded in his collection by November 12, 1800). Godoy also owned Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus (see comparison images below). Goya painted the Maja vestida some years later as a pendant. The term maja (majo for a man) referred to a member of a specific urban class popular in 18th century Madrid. The majos and majas were known for their flamboyant dress and blunt manners. Goya included images of majas in other paintings, including some of his earliest tapestry designs.

  • The political situation at this time was very complicated, so here follows a (very) brief summary: although the Spanish had declared war on France in 1793, Godoy (at that time the First Minister) decided that Spain’s true enemy was England. He therefore signed a truce with France in 1796. The Franco-Spanish fleet was defeated by the English at Trafalgar in 1805. On March 17, 1808, in the Mutiny of Aranjuez, supporters of Ferdinand, the Crown Prince, stormed Godoy’s residence, took him prisoner, and compelled Carlos IV to concede the throne to his son. Napoleon intervened and convinced Ferdinand to give the crown back to his father, who then abdicated to Napoleon. Word spread of plans to evacuate the rest of the royal family, which led to a popular uprising on May 2. Napoleon then put his brother Joseph on the throne. Goya received and completed commissions for Joseph Bonaparte and worked steadily during French rule. Ferdinand did not return to the throne until 1814, following a war for independence from French rule.

  • Goya created a series of 82 etchings, The Disasters of War, showing horrific scenes of torture, death, and despair during the war for independence. Although he etched the plates between 1810-14, they were never published during his lifetime.

  • After Ferdinand returned to the throne in 1814, Goya was questioned about his allegiances during Napoleonic rule. He requested to paint two scenes memorializing the “glorious insurrection” against Napoleon in 1808. 2 May 1808 shows Napoleon’s mercenary soldiers being attacked by Madrid’s lower class, while 3 May 1808 shows the execution of insurgents on the following night.

  • At the end of his life, Goya retired to a country house, which he decorated with the so-called “Black Paintings.” In 1824, he received permission to travel to France for health reasons. He remained in self-imposed exile in Bordeaux until his death.


  • Autumn (or The Vintage), c. 1786 (tapestry design, oil on canvas, 275 x 190 cm), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

  • Las Meninas, after Velázquez, c. 1778 (etching, 40.5 x 32.5 cm)

  • Family of Carlos IV, 1800 (oil on canvas, 280 x 336 cm), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

  • The Duchess of Alba, 1797 (oil on canvas, 210 x 149 cm), Hispanic Society of America, New York

  • Nude Maja (Maja desnuda), c.1797 (oil on canvas, 97 x 190 cm), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

  • Clothed Maja (Maja vestida), c. 1798-1805 (oil on canvas, 95 x 190 cm), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

  • The Second of May 1808, 1814 (oil on canvas, 255 x 345 cm), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

  • The Third of May 1808, 1814 (oil on canvas, 255 x 345 cm), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

  • Francisco Goya y Lucientes, Pintor (plate 1), They Say Yes and Give Their Hand to the First Comer (plate 2), The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (plate 43), from Los Caprichos (1796-97, etching, aquatint, drypoint, 21.5 x 15 cm)

  • Charity (plate 27) and This is Worse (plate 37), from The Disasters of War (Los Desastres de la Guerra), 1810-1814 (published posthumously 1863, etching, aquatint, drypoint, 15.8 x 20.8 cm)


  • Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas (1656, oil on canvas, 3.17 x 2.87 m), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

  • Giorgione, Sleeping Venus, ca. 1507-10, (completed by Titian), (canvas, 108.5 x 175.5 cm.), Gemaeldegalerie, Dresden

  • Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), Venus of Urbino, 1538, (canvas, 119 x 165 cm.), Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

  • Diego Velázquez, Venus at Her Mirror (The Rokeby Venus) (c. 1650, oil on canvas, 122.5 x 177 cm), National Gallery, London






Janis Tomlinson, Francisco Goya y Lucientes, 1746-1828 (London: Phaidon Press, 1994)

-------------------, Goya in the Twilight of Enlightenment (New Haven: Yale UP, 1992)
For the complete series of Los Caprichos in order, see The Biblioteca Nacional de España also has a virtual exhibition of his various print series at (note that the site is in Spanish)

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