Francisco Goya Most Famous Paintings
Who is Francisco Goya?
Francisco Goya (Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes) was a Spanish painter and printmaker who lived through the peak of romanticism in Europe, immensely successful during his lifetime he served as both commentator and chronicler of the sociopolitical situation of his time. Born into a then growing middle class and initially rejected by Madrid's "Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando" he steadily worked his way into brushing shoulders with royalty and would eventually become Charles' IV court painter.
It was during this prosperous time that he produced what might very well be his most famous painting, the very same which also remains as a staple in between the old and modern masters just like the man who painted it. This is The Nude Maja, which is often referred to as the first nude painting without any pretense of either mythological or religious backing behind it in the western world.
Not many accounts remain of his early years but his latter ones are filled to the brim with disease and personal trauma, the reflection of the times laid open throughout his works, and his increasingly grim grip on the world displayed as time went on.
The French invasion of Spain in 1808 a clear point of inflection regarding his mental condition and the ambiance transmitted through his art, collections such as The Disasters of War, and what would later come to be known as his Dark Paintings a testament to the collective intimacy captured by his latter pieces.
This is exceptionally well captured by his most controversial, and possibly famous as well, piece: Saturn Devouring his Son.
A piece of gigantic size which is often described as a vessel for everyone’s catharsis in coming face to face with their demons. It is the case with very few painters that one can revive their lives as vividly as it is with Goya upon reviewing their artwork, so let’s dive in.
Here are 15 of Francisco Goya’s most famous paintings:
- The Parasol by Francisco Goya
- Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zúñiga by Francisco Goya
- The White Duchess by Francisco Goya
- The Black Duchess by Francisco Goya
- Witches' Flight by Francisco Goya
- La Maja desnuda (La maja desnuda) by Francisco Goya
- La Maja Vestida by Francisco de Goya
- Charles IV of Spain and His Family by Francisco Goya
- Portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Francisco Goya
- The Burial of the Sardine by Francisco Goya
- The Second of May 1808 by Francisco Goya
- The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya
- The Forge by Francisco Goya
- Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya
- Self-portrait with Dr Arrieta by Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya Artworks
Part of a series of oil on linen paintings depicting daily life ordered by the then queen to be used as tapestries and bring some joy to the Royal Palace of El Pardo, this piece heralds the early signs of Goya's introduction into the aristocracy. These were ultimately put on display at the Prince's and Princess' of Asturias's dining room and became the first instance on which the future king Charles IV delighted himself to some of his artwork.
The piece itself depicts a woman taking a breather after a long walk with a dog on her lap, another woman holds a parasol and shields her from the scorching sun as both looks onwards. It is worth noting that despite being a commission from the Spanish queen, both of the women appearing on the painting are dressed as French fashion dictated at the time; a detail which would become a staple of Goya's artwork.
Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zúñiga by Francisco Goya
This rather extraordinary painting was commissioned by Vicente Joaquín Osorio de Moscoso y Guzmán, father of the little boy appearing on the piece, a mere year after Goya was nominated as court painter by Charles III (the then king) and probably remains one of the greatest paintings he produced during his most successful years.
This painting, in particular, is rather enticing given that it was described by art historian Claus Virch as "one of the most appealing and successful portraits of children ever painted, and also one of the most famous" in 1967. The rather celebrated work depicts the young boy after which it was named dressed in a red silk costume as he stands in between three curious cats and a magpie, the cage to his left holding in three flinches.
Signaling the beginning of a relatively short period during which Goya might have taken part in an affair with the White Duchess (María Cayetana de Silva) this piece has been emblematic of his work given its parallel relationship with another quite similar work of his, The Black Duchess.
The piece depicts the young and beautiful duchess with a dignified pose, signaling her as a highly educated engaging woman with a powerful and penetrating gaze. It has been described as a painting meant for "semi-public consumption" and one that no patron would have willingly accepted due to how much it emphasizes her pride and self-importance.
The Black Duchess by Francisco Goya
This piece depicts the emblematic duchess in mourning, a black dress with a low cut Maja clothing covers her figure a mere year after his husband had passed away. Her unusual choice of attire was part of an attempt to come off as a "woman of the people" during her timely retreat of a year to a private residence to mourn her loss.
It is worth noting that while serving as an important companion piece to The White Duchess, this work came along at a time during which the artist and the muse spent lots of time together as evidenced by lots of Goya's sketches. The fact which has given room to speculation regarding their relationship.
Witches' Flight by Francisco Goya
Commonly regarded as the crown jewel of Goya's work for the Duke and Duchess of Osuna, who purchased from him a six-piece series to decorate their villa "La Alameda", this painting has been called "the most beautiful and powerful of Goya's Osuna witch paintings".
The reasoning behind this so-called power is however very interesting given that this piece, in particular, appears to be a harsh critique of the Spanish Inquisition, the coroza (a piece of attire specially worn during the inquisition on that same country) worn by the semi-nude witches as these attempt to suck the blood out of twisted body overheads of two distracted peasants and an overlooking donkey conjuring up quite the amusing picture.
La Maja desnuda (La maja desnuda) by Francisco Goya
Originally commissioned as part of a private nude collection and many years later confiscated due to it being improper, the importance of this painting as among the first to depict a nude woman outside of any religious and mythological context cannot be undermined.
Despite the controversy it suffered during its time, it did become a threshold for what art could portray as many artists were later inspired by it. Funnily enough, though, it is extremely probable that Goya himself was inspired by Velázquéz portrayal of Venus. At any rate, with its departure from typical European fashion and a very bold stare, this Maja has held on to relevance.
La Maja Vestida by Francisco de Goya
By sticking more to the original meaning of the word Maja (Coming from "Majo"; a low-class Spaniard of the 18th or 19th century) this artwork manages to serve as a perfectly suitable sister work or pendant painting and albeit considered to be the main one from both Majas, it has enjoyed neither the attention or criticism that The Nude Maja has.
There's nothing too noteworthy about this particular work when compared to its sister painting but due to these being constantly exposed to the public side by side, speculation regarding their usage and intended order of viewing has arisen amongst the art community. The fact that there's nothing to say regarding the possible identity of the model and the piece's purpose just adds to its almost mythical nature as well.
Charles IV of Spain and His Family by Francisco Goya
Coming immediately after he was named First Chamber Painter to the royal family this work marks the prosperous beginning of Goya's position under King Charles IV, which granted him a very substantial salary as well as the greatest position an artist could occupy.
This piece is however rather famous due to its mocking nature despite being at the royalty's behest, the central position of the queen in place of the king a subtle reference to the then-popular claims that she was the one actually in the hold of the power.
Goya can be appreciated in the background, intently watching the spectator as he or she either submits or judges the unusually realistically painted royal family; with no room for flattery nor concealment.
Even when brushing shoulders with the Spanish royalty as court painter, Goya kept himself open to commissions coming from sources other than the royal family and regularly worked on portraits from nobles and generals alike.
In this particular piece, he depicted Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, just as he arrived in Madrid from a long and tiresome military campaign. The man appears on a 3/4 cut as he looks upwards, the red clothing he wore on the original version signaling his title of the earl as he proudly posed with the Peninsular Medal.
The curious detail involving this particular piece is that it was modified two to four years later to depict the modest-sized man with a black uniform instead, the gold braidings as well as the Order of the Golden Fleece and Military Gold Cross recognizing the general's military career progression.
The Burial of the Sardine by Francisco Goya
Despite being shakily placed when it comes to its age, this painting is commonly placed around the 1810s given that such point in time perfectly fits with Goya's transitioning themes as he continued to age.
This piece is particularly telling in that regard given that the usually fruity and vibrant colors start being replaced by its darker variants, this is nothing but on par with the underlying messages of the paintings from this period. This piece depicts the culmination of a three-day carnival on Madrid that concludes on Ash Wednesday, the commonly joyous celebration is however twisted into a sinister affair by the masks and faceless people surrounding the white woman; all amidst what appear to be distorted trees.
This painting along with The Third of May 1808 are in essence what catalyzed Goya's eventual descent into madness and disarray, having nothing to say regarding the undiagnosed disease which left him deaf at some point in 1872.
This much is clear given the painfully accurate desperate yet rebellious expressions he accomplished on this painting after witnessing firsthand the "Dos de Mayo Uprising", even which took place when the Spanish people rebelled against the French occupation and later on ignited the Peninsular War.
This piece, in particular, depicts the exact moment when a group of citizens decided to charge rather than surrender upon a ferocious advance of the French Mamelukes. Despite the homage paid here to these unnamed heroes the Spanish government refused to publicly hang the painting until many years later, the crude weapons used by the citizens supposedly seen as unbefitting.
Commissioned at the same time as The Second of May 1818 by the provisional Spanish government at Goya's suggestion, this pendant painting manages to undoubtedly outdo the original one in every single regard given both its thematic and artistic approach.
Keeping in touch with the original event depicted in the original work, this piece paints the image of even grimmer events that took place during the rebellion. It has even been called "the first great picture which can be called revolutionary in every sense of the word, in style, in subject, and in intention" by art historian Kenneth Clark, the way on which the artist portrayed a steeled and organized firing squad executing a mass of chaotic denizens truly groundbreaking.
After concluding his artistic statements regarding the horrors of human establishment in the pieces regarding the "Dos de Mayo Uprising" as well as his highly regarded The Disasters of War, Goya was left mentally unbalanced and his art became sporadically more erratic as a result. This piece has been described by art historian Fred Licht as "undoubtedly the most complete statement of Goya's late style" and remains a very interesting work to break down.
The image depicted is that of three blacksmiths as they hit an anvil in the heat of a single particular moment devoid of any deeper meaning, as court painter it was not uncommon for the artist to portray the struggles of common men as these forge the future of Spain. Evoking quite the inspiring message as common men were the ones who ultimately stood up to Napoleon day to day.
Serving at the peak of the collection titled Dark Paintings this titanic piece was salvaged and transferred into a canvas directly from one of the walls within Goya's home, the residence by the name "Quinta del Sordo" to which the artist retreated during his final years.
This famous collection could very well be called a testament to human suffering and the struggles that come with being mortal, it was only after surviving two nearly fatal diseases and a civilian rebellion that the unwell old painter managed to create something so alluring to one's own demons.
The horrific image of Saturn (The titan Cronus) devouring one of his own children remains one of the more powerful works within this collection as is known for its cathartic properties when it comes to awakening despair and dread within the onlooker.
Having come a long way from the once hopeful and colorful cartoon tapestries produced by the then renowned and old artist, this last painting served as a gift to Dr. Arrieta; whom saved Goya from a lethal illness in 1819 through constant effort and tenuous care.
By then the artist was completely deaf and suffered from dizziness amidst other impairments, his inner disturbed self appearing more and more in his artwork as he grew increasingly anxious regarding his own mortality. This piece depicts the artist painstakingly holding on for dear life on a bed as the doctor supports him from behind while encouraging to ingest some medicine, the pained face of the artist only as powerful as the gratitude he felt later on.
One thing specially noteworthy about this piece is an underlying message of hope right in between Goya's dark years, the more vibrant and softer colors evidencing that somewhere underneath his disturbed and punished self the old man remained joyous to be alive.
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