Francisco de Goya was a Spanish painter and printmaker who rose to prominence in the artistic scene through his series of tapestry cartoons and became the court painter to the Spanish Crown. He later developed a penchant for portrayals of a dark nature for which he is most known today. Goya is renowned for highly imaginative elements in his art and bold use of paint. His style became an inspiration for later generations of artists. Here are his 10 most famous paintings and prints including The Third of May, The Nude Maja, Witches’ Sabbath and the Disasters of War series.
#10 The Parasol
Spanish Title: El Quitasol
Year: c. 1777
This work of art is from Francisco Goya’s series of 63 large tapestry cartoons. Goya was commissioned to paint the series by the Spanish crown during early part of his career. Though he later regretted spending so much time on the cartoons, the series is considered important in his artistic development and helped him study human behavior which would later prove important for painting his masterpieces. This painting which merges French and Spanish fashion is perhaps the most famous work of his cartoon series.
#9 The Dog
Spanish Title: El Perro
Year: 1819 – 1823
The Black Paintings is a name given to the group of 14 paintings created by Francisco Goya in the later stage of his life probably between 1819 and 1823. The paintings, which are well known for depicting intense dark themes, were painted by Goya as murals on the walls of his house and were transferred to canvas years after his death. This well-known work depicts a dog, almost lost in the vastness of the scene; and looking skywards perhaps hoping for divine intervention after all seems lost. It is usually interpreted as a symbol of man’s struggle against malevolent forces.
#8 The Clothed Maja
Spanish Title: La maja vestida
Year: 1800 – 1805
Majo (masc.) or maja (fem.) were terms used to refer to the people of the lower classes of Spanish society who were known for their sense of style in dresses and manners. They were among the favorite subjects of several 19th-century Spanish artists. This painting is usually displayed alongside its more famous companion of the same size The Nude Maja. The clothes worn by the model in this painting are responsible for the names given to these two famous works of art. The identity of the model remains unknown.
#7 Witches’ Sabbath (The Great He-Goat)
Spanish Title: Aquelarre
Year: c. 1821 – 1823
Witches’ Sabbath, which is seen by art historians as a satire on the tendency of the age to believe in things too easily and condemnation of superstition, is a one of the most renowned Black Painting of Goya. It shows Satan with goat like features and dressed in clerical clothing, delivering a lecture to what appears a gathering of witches.
#6 Charles IV of Spain and His Family
This life size depiction of ostentatiously dressed King Charles IV of Spain and his family is one Goya’s most famous works. It is noted for the artist’s disinclination to flatter and most modern interpreters see the style and placement as depicting the corruption behind the rule of the monarch. The positioning of the king’s wife Louisa at the center of the portrait is considered a hint to where the real power lied during his reign. The barely visible man in the background is Goya himself.
#5 The Disasters of War Series
Spanish Title: Los Desastres de la Guerra
Year: 1810 – 1820
Created between 1810 and 1820, this series of 82 prints ranks among the most important works of Francisco Goya. Art historians have divided the series into three parts. The first 47 prints depict the horrors of war; the middle series (prints 48 to 64) depict the effects of the famine that hit Madrid in 1811–12; and the last 17 reflect the disappointment following the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1814. Goya’s dark portrayal of the consequences of war is considered a prodigious visual outrage against war and a bold political statement.
#4 The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Spanish Title: El sueño de la razón produce monstrous
Los Caprichos are a set of 80 prints which were created by Goya in 1797 and 1798. He published them as an album the following year. According to Goya the series depicted “the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society; and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance or self-interest have made usual”. This print, which depicts the artist asleep amid his drawing tools with monsters symbolizing the vices of society invading his mind, is the most famous print of the series.
#3 Saturn Devouring His Son
Spanish Title: Saturno devorando a su hijo
Year: c. 1819 – 1823
This masterpiece is based on the Roman myth by which the titan Saturn ate his children as it was prophesied that one of his sons would overthrow him, just like he had overthrown his father Caelus. The Prophesy does come to be true as his wife Ops deceives him and saves one of their sons. This disturbing portrait of Saturn consuming one of his children is the most famous of the 14 Black Paintings by Francisco Goya. It was one of the six paintings decorating his dining room.
#2 The Nude Maja
Spanish Title: La Maja Desnuda
Year: 1797 – 1800
The Nude Maja is famous as the first “totally profane life-size female nude in Western art” and the first large Western painting to depict female pubic hair without obvious negative connotations. The painting was most likely commissioned by Prime Minister of Spain Manuel de Godoy. The identity of the model is not known with certainty. Likely candidates are Godoy’s mistress Pepita Tudo and María Cayetana de Silva, 13th Duchess of Alba. Known for the straightforward and unashamed view of the model towards the viewer, it is considered a revolutionary work which expanded the horizons of Western art.
#1 The Third of May 1808
Spanish Title: El tres de mayo de 1808 en Madrid
On May 2, 1808, the people of Madrid rebelled against the occupation of the city by Napoleon’s French army. Goya has captured this uprising in his painting The Second of May 1808. The Third of May 1808, the most famous painting by the artist, depicts the retaliation by the French the following day, during which hundreds of Spaniards were rounded up and shot. The painting is considered one of the first great paintings of the modern era; has been called revolutionary in its style, subject and intention; and has inspired several famous painting by future artists most prominently Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica.