Francisco Goya and his Black Paintings

A few years ago, on a study abroad trip to Spain, I popped into the Museo Nacional del Prado. And by popped into, of course, I mean spent hours in.  Each museum I go to has it’s greatest hits reel in my memories (for example, I will forever hold onto that memory of walking through Richard Serra’s sculptures at the Guggenheim in Bilbao) and for Prado that was easily the ‘Black Paintings’ by Francisco Goya.  These paintings are hauntingly beautiful to look at as is, but picture being surrounded by these (for example, this first one below is almost 9 feet by 11.5 feet!).  They make the perfect argument for seeing art in museums rather than just looking at photographs of art.

El 3 de Mayo de 1808 by Francisco de Goya (1814)

The Second of May 1808 by Francisco Goya (1814)

The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya (1814)

The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya (1814)

What makes these paintings even more intense is that they were not originally painted on canvas but instead as murals in Goya’s house.  Goya was in a dark place when he painted these murals, which were clearly never meant to leave his house and never meant to be viewed publicly.

Photograph of Witches’ Sabbath taken in 1874 by J. Laurent inside Quinta del Sordo. (Photo from Spanish Cultural Heritage Institute).

Photograph of Witches’ Sabbath taken in 1874 by J. Laurent inside Quinta del Sordo. (Photo from Spanish Cultural Heritage Institute).

Aquelarre, or The Witches' Sabbath by Francisco de Goya (1821-1823)

Aquelarre, or The Witches’ Sabbath by Francisco Goya (1821-1823)

Dog half-submerged by Francisco de Goya (1821-1823)

Dog half-submerged by Francisco Goya
(1821-1823)

Saturn devouring one of his sons by Francisco de Goya (1821-1823)

Saturn devouring one of his sons by Francisco Goya (1821-1823)

If you’re interested in reading more about the pieces, visit the museum website, which is one of the most comprehensive and detailed (and therefore, awesome) museum websites I have seen.  Here, for example, you can read a blurb about Saturn devouring one of his sons.

Two Old Men Eating by Francisco de Goya (1821-1823)

Two Old Men Eating by Francisco Goya (1821-1823)

On a slightly lighter note, the Prado also houses these two ladies.  Fun fact, they were both displayed at Prime Minister Manuel de Godoy’s house (but really, palace), only supposedly the clothed painting was hung in front of the naked painting.  Once the ladies were safely out of the room (only men were allowed to see naked ladies… go figure), the painting in front was pulled up, revealing the rated R version for the gentlemen to enjoy.

The Nude Maja by Francisco de Goya (1797-1800)

The Nude Maja by Francisco Goya (1797-1800)

The Clothed Maja by Francisco de Goya (1807-1808)

The Clothed Maja by Francisco Goya (1807-1808)

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