Special Sub-Topic: Paintings of Goya
|Goya's output included almost no religious art.|
f. As a Spanish artist working during a period when the Spanish Inquisition was still very much a reality (it was eventually dismantled during the Napoleonic occupation), it would have been highly unusual if Goya's output did not include a significant amount of religious art. His first professional commission was to execute a series of frescos in the cathedral of el Pilar. His early religious paintings include an 1780 "Holy Family" which is somewhat reminiscent of the style of Murillo. He produced a fairly steady stream of religious art throughout his career; one of his last works in this genre was the 1825 "St. Peter Repentant"
|In 1774, Goya was commissioned by the great German artist Anton Raphael Mengs to execute oil paintings, mostly of genre scenes depicting village life, for the Royal Factory of Santa Barbara. These paintings were used by the factory as "cartoons", from which the factory would create decorative items based on the paintings; what type of items were these?|
Tapestries. Goya's tapestry "cartoons" for the Royal Factory include some of his finest early works, including "Fight at the Cock Inn", "The Greasy Pole", "Blind Man's Bluff", "The Parasol", and "The Kite". Eventually, however, Goya tired of executing these cartoons and asked King Charles IV to be released from his contract with the factory. This aroused the ire of the Queen, Maria Luisa, who was partial to Goya's designs, however the King (who seems to have liked the painter) granted his request and cajoled the Queen by explaining that tapestries were going out of style.
|Which of these statements is NOT true of Goya's 1791 painting of Queen Maria Luisa?|
The Queen was highly displeased with it.. Queen Maria Luisa was a ruthless, vain, and conniving woman whose numerous affairs were, fortunately, never guessed at by her husband, the obtuse Charles IV. She was also, frankly, no great beauty; at best, her face can be said to resemble that of a hawk or some other bird of prey. Prior to his 1791 portrait of her, Goya had painted flattering likenesses of the Queen, which streamlined her facial features and emphasized her jewels and rich clothing. When she asked him for this portrait, however, he decided to abandon flattery and paint a truthful likeness of this formidable woman. He asked her not to view the painting until it was completed, a request which she agreed to and which she honored. Numerous courtiers saw the painting in progress, however, and were volubly shocked; they whispered to the Queen that it was disgraceful, insulting, a cruel mockery. Goya's wife Josefa had also gotten a look at the portrait and begged him, for the sake of his family, not to present it to the Queen. In truth, Goya took a considerable risk; Maria Luisa was a powerful woman who did not hesitate to crush those who displeased her, and she could easily have ruined Goya's career.
To the shock of her courtiers, Maria Luisa was delighted with the finished portrait when she, at last, laid eyes on it. Observers of the painting have scratched their heads over this ever since, wondering how such a vain, proud woman could have countenanced being portrayed in this unblinking, uncompromising manner. One should bear in mind, however, that the Queen, surrounded as she was by sycophants, probably respected and appreciated the artist's honesty. She may also have perceived that Goya had expertly captured, not only her physical flaws, but also her strength of character and her proud bearing (she must have had some attractive qualities, after all, to have acquired so many lovers). She handsomely rewarded the artist and commissioned several more portraits of herself. The King was also highly satisfied with Goya's worked and honored him with a private audience, at which he played the violin for the artist's entertainment (one wonders whether Goya thought of it that way).
|Goya's 1792 painting "Don Manuel Osorio" is one of his best-known works. Which of these is NOT depicted in the painting?|
A parrot. Goya always enjoyed portraying children and this charming portrait of the two year-old Don Manuel is one of the finest (and best-known) children's portraits in European art. The small boy, dressed in red satin trimmed with white, holds on a leash his pet magpie. Two large cats in the rear of the painting eye the magpie hungrily, giving an undercurrent of menace and tension to the otherwise innocent atmosphere. A birdcage to the right houses some finches. The magpie holds the artist's calling card in its beak.
|Although he was married, the love of Goya's life is believed to have been the Duchess d'Alba, who is featured in numerous paintings, both formal and informal. Did he also paint her husband's portrait?|
y. Goya's portrait of the Duke dates from 1793. The Duke had recently returned from England at the time of the portrait, which may account for the fact that it is very much in the English style. A music lover, the Duke is depicted leaning against a spinet, on which rests a violin; he is perusing what looks like a musical score.
|Goya's 1797 portrait of the Duchess d'Alba contains two hints of their romantic relationship. One is the artist's name written in the sand at the Duchess' feet, to which she is pointing. Another is the names "Goya" and "Alba"; where in the painting do these names appear?|
On the Duchess' rings. If there were no other evidence of the passionate relationship between Goya and Maria Cayetana, the Duchess d'Alba, his various paintings of her would provide a sufficient documentary. In an earlier portrait, the Duchess intriguingly held a key in one hand (the key to her room?). The 1797 portrait is more telling; on one hand, the Duchess wears two rings bearing the names "Goya" and "Alba". In the sand at the Duchess' feet is inscribed "Goya solo" ("Goya alone") along with the year 1797.
The Duchess was also the model for less formal portraits; many believe that she is one of the two women featured in the great "Majas on the Balcony". She is undoubtedly the model for "La Maja Desnuda" ("The Naked Maja") and "La Maja Vestida" ("The Clothed Maja"; the pose of the subject in both paintings is identical). The former is particularly remarkable, not only for the quality of the painting, but that Goya dared to paint it in the first place. The painting of nudes was forbidden by the Spanish Inquisition; the last Spanish artist to breach this restriction had been Velasquez, in his "Rokeby Venus" and, even here, the figure had her back to the viewer. Had "La Maja Desnuda" been brought to the attention of the Inquisition, Goya would have faced imprisonment, at the very least, and possibly execution.
Goya's affair with the Duchess came to a tragic end with her sudden death in 1802, at the age of forty. Many suspected that she had been poisoned by the Queen, who resented the Duchess on a number of counts, not the least of which was the fact that the latter enjoyed exercising her hereditary right not to stand in the Queen's presence. Maria Luisa did succeed in getting the Duchess exiled, but the possibility of her having a hand in the Duchess' death has never been solidly established.
|In 1800, Goya completed his famous portrait of Charles IV and his family. Many have commented on the devastating candor of this group portrait, amounting almost to caricature. One particularly satirical touch is the pose of the central figure, the Queen, which maliciously mimics that of the central figure in which of these other celebrated Spanish paintings?|
Velasquez's "Las Meninas". In private, Goya described the Spanish royal family as resembling "...the butcher's family, who lived over his shop, after they have won the big lottery". In this celebrated group portrait, his brush dwells lovingly on their glittering attire, but spares no detail of their physical (and other) shortcomings. I cherish this appreciation of the painting by Renoir, who describes it better than I possibly could: "...When you stand in front of it, you don't notice that the King looks like a pig breeder, or that the Queen resembles a barmaid escaped from some pub, to put it mildly. But what masses of diamonds she is wearing! No one ever painted diamonds like Goya. And what wonderful little satin slippers he could do!"
At the center of the portrait is the Queen, particularly as she is the tallest of the lot and stands before a dark background. No doubt, in her vanity, she was flattered to be asked to strike a pose identical to that of the Infanta Margerita in Velasquez's "Las Meninas", with the head turned slightly over her left shoulder. One wonders, however, if she was completely unaware of the inherent satire implied by this pose; the Infanta in Velasquez's painting is the prototype of childish innocence, whereas Maria Luisa was equally notorious for her ruthlessness and her promiscuity.
Another aspect of this painting which recalls "Las Meninas" is the presence of the artist at his easel at the back of the family group. Supposedly, this was done at the request of the superstitious Queen, who noticed that the number of family members was an unlucky thirteen and asked Goya to join them in the portrait. Unfortunately, in this case, the royals were unsuccessful in warding off bad luck.
|There exist very few paintings by Goya of the "still life" genre. Of the few that he painted, what was his preferred subject matter?|
Butchered animals and fish. "Head and Quarters of a Dissected Ram" and "Slices of Salmon" are among the very few "still-life" pieces we have by Goya. Though for modern tastes these paintings may seem rather grotesque, it should be noted that many great artists (notably Rembrandt) painted animal and/or fish carcasses, as well as dead game birds and animals.
| "The Witches' Sabbath" and and "The Congress of Sorcerers" are two of a series of paintings Goya executed for the home of the Duchess of Osuna. These paintings all deal with demons, witches, and folk superstitions. In the two paintings mentioned above, Satan is featured as a central figure; he is depicted in the form of which animal?|
A goat. Goya's depiction of Satan as a black goat is highly traditional; goats were associated with sexual promiscuity since ancient times and the tradition of depicting Lucifer as a horned creature with cloven hooves and a goatee dates back practically to the dawn of the Christian era. Here, he is depicted as a slightly larger-than-human size animal with very large horns who sits and stands upright. In "The Witches' Sabbath", the goat-devil is crowned with vine leaves and sits at the center of a group of witches, one of whom holds an emaciated, skeleton-like child. In "The Congress of Sorcerers", he is a shadowy figure silhouetted against a background of grotesque figures who resemble the habitués of one of Goya's numerous "madhouse" paintings.
|In 1812, Goya was commissioned to execute a portrait of this celebrated Englishman; who was it?|
The Duke of Wellington. In 1812, at the climax of the Peninsular War, English troops under Wellington's command ousted the French from the city of Madrid. Shortly after completing this brilliant campaign, the celebrated English general commissioned an equestrian portrait from Goya. The painting was completed in three weeks and was unveiled with great ceremony in the newly liberated city; it was followed by other formal portraits of Wellington. Goya had earlier executed a sketch of an exhausted Wellington in his camp after the battle of Arapiles; this candid depiction is of far greater value as a character study of the legendary military leader than any of the formal portraits.
|"The Burial of the Sardine", painted between 1812 and 1819, depicts a riotous event which traditionally took place during this holiday.|
Carnival. "The Burial of the Sardine" depicts a traditional ceremony held at the end of the Carnival revelries, which precedes the season of Lent. A group of masked revelers hold aloft a banner painted with the image of a grinning, hideously ugly male face. This banner, symbolizing corrupt, sinful man, was traditionally buried at the close of Carnival (the title of the painting does not refer to a fish). This ceremony is still enacted in parts of Spain.
|In 1814, Goya painted "The Third of May, 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid", one of his best-known and most devastating works. Less well known is his painting of the event which immediately preceded the executions, on the second of May, which was completed in the same year. What event did this painting depict?|
The Battle at the Puerta del Sol. On May 2, 1808, a group of Mamelukes (mounted soldiers from Egypt who fought as mercenaries for the occupying French army) were attacked in Madrid by a mob of Spanish insurgents, who were cheered on by onlookers. The uprising was put down by the French and the insurgents, along with some of their supporters, were captured and brutally executed. Goya depicted both the attack and its bloody "resolution", the latter of which is one of the most chilling depictions of human cruelty in all of art. Striking details abound; the executioners, standing in the shadows, are divested of humanity by their uniforms, their pointed bayonets, and the darkness in which they stand. A large, square lantern throws blazing light on the doomed prisoners, most of whom cover their faces or ears with the exception of the central white shirted figure, who kneels wide eyed with his arms thrown up in a crucified pose upon the bloodied ground. The bodies of the dead lie carelessly piled to the left, leaving barely enough room for the fresh group of victims.
|The brutal occupation of Spain by the French armies during the Napoleonic wars wrought a dramatic change in Goya's art. In what would later be called his "black" period, his choice of subject matter increasingly turned to the grotesque and the horrible, although he had never been one to shun the uglier side of life. All but one of the following paintings belong to Goya's "black" period; which one does NOT? |
The Yard of the Madhouse. Although most of Goya's darker and more macabre paintings date from the years following the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, it should not be supposed that he was incapable of appreciating and depicting the starker realities of life prior to that time. In 1792 the artist was stricken with a mysterious illness (probably a form of syphilis) which made him "...at times rage with so ill a humor that he could not tolerate himself" to quote a contemporary account. The strange malady permanently affected the artist's hearing and, for a time, his vision as well. From this period comes the 1794 painting "The Yard of the Madhouse", which depicts a scene that would not be out of place in Dante's "Inferno", as well as the bitterly satirical series of etchings entitled "Los Caprichos".
The other three are post-Napoleonic war paintings and are among the most horrific works in Goya's ouevre. "Saturn Devouring One of his Children" (1820-1823) and "The Colossus" (1810), in their different ways, depict the terrible indifference and cruelty of brutish power (Saturn's wide-eyed, rather idiotic stare as he gluttonously and single-mindedly devours one of his offspring is particularly haunting). "The Time of the Old Women" (1810-1812), depicting two ancient crones, is an allegory of the decay of the flesh, even among the still-living. The face of one of the two old women has been hideously disfigured by syphilis, eating away her nose and the flesh around her eyes and giving her face a skull-like appearance. By contrast, both women are richly dressed in glittering finery, against which their physical decrepitness appears the more striking.
|Goya executed many portraits of revolutionaries and nobles of his time. Which of these sitters was executed during the counter-revolutionary terror of 1825?|
Juan Martin Diaz. Diaz was a guerilla leader who fought alongside the Duke of Wellington. He was nicknamed El Empecinado (the stubborn one) and was instrumental in the liberation of Madrid in 1812. The liberation resulted, among other things, in the restoration of Ferdinand VII to the throne; however, the consitiution of Cadiz, drawn up in the same year, restricted the power of the monarchy. Ferdinand's subsequent refusal to honor the constitution, along with his enactment of reactionary policies, cost him the support of many who had loyally fought to regain his throne and a revolt in 1820 compelled him to restore the constitution the following year. His capitulation was only a stalling tactic, however; in 1823, ironically with the assistance of the French, Ferdinand ruthlessly crushed the liberal resistance, abolished the constitution, and reinstated the Inquisition. There followed a bloody and pitiless reprisal against all who had supported the constitution; Goya and Diaz were both victims of Ferdinand's relentless vendetta. Diaz was ignominiously hanged in 1825 and Goya was compelled to flee from Spain and go into hiding in France. History has vindicated Diaz's reputation, despite his shameful death, and "El Empecinado" is celebrated to this day as one of Spain's greatest heroes.
|In 1824, Goya left Spain and went into hiding in France, settling in Bordeaux, where he spent much of the rest of his life. In 1827, he painted a charming portrait of a young woman from the region; what was her occupation?|
Milkmaid. The bucolic charm of the "Milkmaid of Bordeaux" is almost worthy of Renoir and stands in marked contrast to the darker canvases and etchings and the formal portraits which comprise much of the work of Goya's last years. It is possibly Goya's last painting and makes a poignant epilogue to his long and varied career.
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