Art. History. Culture.
Oh, Goya. The first “official” post on Greco’s Ghosts was always going to be about Goya. Born Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, he is called Francisco de Goya, or simply Goya. He is my specialty. With an oeuvre that reaches beyond 50 years of collected works, Goya has been seen by many as an enigma. His ability to wear so many different hats at once, as it were, is the reason his true personality seems to be such a mystery. A tapestry cartoonist, a painter of the Spanish Royals, a publisher of satire, a creator of horrific dark creatures, Goya was an artistic chameleon. His many talents could be used to serve whoever was interested, from the high-born aristocrat to the Church despising mob. We tend to relate to him because of this, which is why Goya is truly the first Modern painter. Yep, I said it. Goya, not a fellow Romantic like Eugène Delacroix or an epic Neoclassicist like Jacques-Louis David, but Goya is the first true Modern painter. He is my fave.
A painting such as The Wedding seems to be an appropriate introduction to Goya because it displays the pleasant style of his Court works while simultaneously conveying the ingenious satire that I love about him. Much, much more about Goya’s dark comedy will come to Greco’s Ghosts in future posts, don’t you worry. There are too many irresistible examples.
Francisco de Goya, The Wedding, 1791-2, oil on canvas, 267 x 293 cm., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.
At the time The Wedding was painted, Goya had become a Court Painter to the King and Queen of Spain, Carlos IV and María Luisa. He had taken charge of tapestry production and was ordered to create cartoons of light-hearted subjects to decorate the Royal walls. Goya painted The Wedding in response to a commission for something ‘rustic and comic’ for the King (Tomlinson 83). The composition of this work exemplifies the humor and sarcasm that Goya would become famous for.
The dark hair and complexion of the groom at the very middle of the procession suggest him to be of mixed blood, possibly just having returned from the New World where he recently became rich (Tomlinson 87). Although he is now a successfully wealthy man, he remains a fool, a characteristic which Goya emphasizes through the groom’s stout frame and ugly facial features. His bride has clearly married him for his money and has little other interest in him, as shown by her generally aloof attitude and physical distance separating the two of them. Despite her beauty, she is also a fool; she has improved her social status by marring a wealthier man, yet he is an ugly, ridiculous one (could she be wearing her brand new fancy shoes on the wrong feet?).
Here, Goya is satirizing the mutual benefits both the bride and groom gain from the marriage. The bride becomes wealthy by marrying an ugly, oafish man, the groom compensates for his ugliness with a young, beautiful, and superficial wife. The ambiguous location of the wedding procession is framed by a large arch. Many of the figures within the wedding procession are also apparently aware of the ridiculousness of the couple, especially the cackling old man at the far right, whose large hat covers his whole face except for the tip of the long and pointy nose and the wide, sinister grin.
Tomlinson, Janis A. Francisco Goya y Lucientes, 1746-1828. London: Phaidon Press, 1994.