This Is the Great Goya
Goya’s Mystery Illness
Goya’s Famous Etching
Goya on Halloween
Goya and the Beautiful Duchess (Part 1)
Goya’s Proud Sitter
Goya and Velazquez
What about The Third of May – one of the best paintings of his
Carlton: Thanks for the link to that great picture. The comments attached to it showed some mistakes, I thought. If Goya’s gardener said that they watched the shootings of 1808 from his house (la Quinta del Sordo) he was wrong because Goya didn’t buy it until 1819.
I hope the expert on the Napoleonic Wars didn’t mean to balance the wrongs in that war by claiming that the Spanish peasants “frequently” dug up dead French soldiers and mutilated their bodies. Remember, the Spanish people fought desperately, heroically, against a skilled foreign army that came to subjugate their country. Their brave and stubborn resistance was what impressed Goya and what he immortalized in his big painting. Those soldiers in the firing squad were French but it wasn’t their Frenchness that Goya meant to show.
And the friar in the group waiting to be shot was a hero like the rest of them. He was no representative of the Inquisition being “legitimately” punished, as the man from Bangladesh supposed. A big part of the Spanish population were clergy of some kind, there were good and bad, some more, some less religious. In his Disasters of War etchings Goya shows friars taking part in the uprising. They naturally felt just as outraged as the rest.
Here’s a really great poem about this picture, written by Portuguese poet Jorge de Sena, translated by Richard Zenith:
LETTER TO MY CHILDREN ON GOYA’S EXECUTIONS OF THE THIRD OF MAY
I don’t know, children, what world will be yours.
It’s possible (everything’s possible) that it will be
the world I wish for you. A simple world,
in which the only difficulty will come
from there being nothing that’s not simple and natural.
A world in which everything will be allowed,
according to your fancy, your yearning, your pleasure,
your respect for others and their respect for you.
It’s also possible that it won’t be this, and that this
won’t even be what you want in life. Everything’s possible,
even though we fight, as we must fight,
on behalf of our idea of freedom and justice
and – still more important – in steadfast
allegiance to the honour of being alive.
One day you will realize what a vast multitude,
as countless as humanity, felt this way,
loving others for whatever they had that was unique,
unusual, free, different,
and they were sacrificed, tortured, beaten
and hypocritically handed over to secular justice,
to be liquidated “with sovereign pity and without bloodshed”.
For being loyal to a god, to a conviction,
to a country, to a hope, or merely
to the irrefutable hunger that gnawed them from within,
they were gutted, flayed, burned, gassed,
and their bodies heaped up as anonymously as they had lived,
or their ashes scattered so that no memory of them remained.
Sometimes, for belonging to a certain race
or class, they atoned for all the wrongs
they had not committed or had no awareness
of having committed. But it also happened
and happens that they were not killed.
There have always been infinite methods for dominating,
annihilating quietly, gently,
through ways inscrutable, as they say of God’s ways.
These executions, this heroism, this horror,
was one episode, among thousands, that happened in Spain
over a century ago and whose violence and injustice
shocked the heart of a painter named Goya,
who had a very large heart, full of rage
and love. But this is nothing, children,
just one event, a brief event,
in this chain of which you are (or aren’t) a link
of iron and sweat and blood and a bit of semen
on the way to the world I dream for you.
Believe me that no world, that nothing and nobody
is worth more than a life or the joy of having life.
It is this joy that matters most.
Believe me that the dignity you’ll hear so much about
is nothing but this joy that comes
from being alive and knowing that no one has ever
been less alive or suffered or died
so that just one of you could stave off a little longer
the death that belongs to all of us and will come.
That you will know all of this with peace of mind,
with rancour toward no one, without fear, without ambition,
and above all without apathy or indifference
is my ardent hope. So much blood,
so much pain, so much anguish, must one day prove
– even if the tedium of a happy world torments you –
not to have been in vain. I confess that
very often, thinking about the horror of so many centuries
of oppression and cruelty, I have a moment of hesitation
in which an overwhelming bitterness makes me despair.
Are they or aren’t they in vain? And even if they aren’t,
who will resurrect those millions, who will restore
not only their lives but all that was taken from them?
No Final Judgement, children, can give them
that moment they did not live, that object
they did not freely enjoy, that gesture
of love they were going to make ‘tomorrow’.
And so the same world we create urges us
to treat it with care, as something that isn’t
just ours but has been entrusted to us
that we might respectfully watch over it
in memory of the blood that flows in our veins,
and of the flesh we’ve inherited, and of the love that
others did not love because it was taken from them.
Miguel (St. Oberose): Thanks for showing this. I bet if the de Sena’s children lived through the twentieth century they got a good feel of what he was talking about. Life got very explicit.