The Third of May 1808

Execution of the Defenders of Madrid_Goya_1814

With The Third of May 1808, Goya has made an image of actual historical events, but enhanced them for maximum dramatic effect. The condemned men stand before a firing squad on the hill Príncipe Pío, one of several locations where such executions took place. The recognizable architecture of the city in the background lends immediacy to the scene. But it is the figures to the left of the composition that demand the viewer’s attention. The main figure, dressed in white, practically glows. Holding out his arms in an unmistakable reference to the crucified Christ, he appears as a heroic martyr. While the faceless French soldiers on the opposite side are rendered almost inhuman, the Spanish rebels elicit both sympathy for their suffering and respect for their sacrifice.

Francisco Goya (1746-1828)

Goya was a talented Spanish painter and printmaker, and is considered one of the last of the Old Masters of painting, as well as the first of the moderns. Between the years of 1792 and 1793, he suffered from a mysterious illness, which made him deaf, and affected his mental behavior.

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