Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




A Reflection of Horror

The Spanish Revolt against Napoleon



No one is innocent once he has seen what I have seen. I witnessed how the noblest ideals of freedom and progress were transformed into lances, sabres and bayonets. Arson, looting and rape, all supposed to bring a New Order, in reality only exchanged the garrotte for the gallows.

Francisco de Goya, from an entry in his diary, 1808


Francisco de Goya, Barbarians!. No. 38 from series "DISASTERS OF WAR"

see collection: Francisco de Goya "DISASTERS OF WAR"



Napoleon was furious. The "damned Spanish affair" was out of control. Early on, the power-mad Emperor of France had thought it would be a pushover. Charles IV of Spain, a weakling at best, had retreated into the background, leaving the government in the hands of his wife Maria Luisa and her lover Manuel Godoy. Napoleon could have won over the ambitious Godoy by making him viceroy of Spain. However, his links with Napoleon, which led to a disastrous war with Great Britain, made Godoy unpopular throughout Spain. He only barely escaped being lynched by fleeing to France.

Napoleon, cunning as he was, had always treated Spain, an ally of France, like a subject nation. He refused to admit defeat at the hands of a nation occupied by his troops. Pretending to seek reconciliation, he summoned the Spanish king and queen, with the crown prince in tow, to France. Napoleon's real intention was to keep the Spanish royals captive and put his eldest brother, Joseph Bonaparte, on the Iberian throne. When Napoleons treachery became known, a desperate revolt broke out in Spain on 2 May 1808. Hopelessly outnumbered, a band of people armed with knives and lances attacked a powerful French cavalry force in the Puerta del Sol, a square in the heart of Madrid. Begun in blind, impotent anger, the revolt was doomed from the outset to failure. Still it signalled to the world that a conquered people had dared to stand up to Napoleon, who was then at the zenith of his power. The French Emperor exacted a terrible revenge. That same night, everyone suspected of having taken part in the rebellion was executed by a French firing squad.

No one has come closer to showing the naked brutality of those events than Francisco de Goya, Court Painter to Charles IV, who had originally welcomed Napoleon's ideals. Imbued with the spirit of the French Revolution, he had not hesitated to show the Spanish royal family for what it was, painting them in a highly unflattering light. However, Napoleon turned out to be the opposite of what he had seemed to be. Although he had originally proclaimed freedom for his own and other peoples of Europe, he revealed himself as a despot. Perhaps his values had become corrupted and twisted. In any case, Goya depicted the scene with a twist: his hero is the victim who will be the next to be shot. The man in the white shirt spreads out his arms like Christ on the Cross. The wounds on his hands are like Christ's. His message is: I die that you may live. It was to take five years to drive the French out of Spain.

Francisco de Goya
The Third of May, 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid
Museo del Prado, Madrid


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