Old Man Goya
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In 1792, when he was forty-seven, the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya contracted an illness that left him stone deaf. Yet he continued to interact with the world and to create, spending the next thirty-five years in a world emptied of sound but bursting with images of pageantry, cruelty, and pathos.
In this brilliant, idiosyncratic book – a kaleidoscope of biography, memoir, history, and meditation – Julia Blackburn vividly imagines the artist’s world during this time. She recreates the artist’s friendships and love affairs and breathes life into the subjects of his paintings: an ethereally lovely duchess; the spoiled grotesques of the Bourbon court; the atrocities of the Napoleonic wars. Old Man Goya is a rare work of empathy and imagination, a stunning portrait of the mind and life of a great artist.
were bearing witness to the human chaos spreading like a disease across all the land. There was even less food than usual for the people who lived in the mountain villages of the south and during the freezing cold of winter they travelled like migrating birds to the big cities, to crouch exhausted at the side of the roads, displaying their poverty and desperation and begging for charity. I don’t know what Goya saw or did not see on his journey to Madrid, but I have taken a few images from travel
could see himself as a simple man, proud of the deftness of his little hands. Charles had married his cousin, Maria Luisa of Parma, when he was sixteen and she was only fourteen. She bore him twenty-two children of whom six survived. The youngest was rumoured to be sired by her favourite, Manuel Godoy, sometimes known as the Sausage Maker (because the area he came from was famous for its sausages and because of rude jokes as well). Godoy began his career as a royal bodyguard and once he had
and deal with the sale of his father’s possessions, especially the paintings and the drawings. In the portrait that Goya made of him on the eve of his wedding in 1805, he appears like a young aristocrat, jaunty and carefree, excused of all responsibility because he has youth and beauty. But in the little drawing made almost twenty years later, he has changed completely. He has the same heavy profile as his mother, the same closed, inward stare. In 1811, when the war had just ended and the famine
mausoleums stand in ordered lines along their named streets, like rows of neat little houses in a city for the dead. In those days it was still customary to pay for professional weepers to attend the burial ceremony. These were children between the ages of twelve and fifteen, dressed in strange coats made out of three layers of black capes, their legs bound in black stockings and their heads almost hidden under large felt hats decorated with crêpe ribbons – a good subject for a drawing done in
the wrong age. He then returned to Madrid to begin the third round of solicitors and notaries. On 10 May his four reliable witnesses, including an uncle and a brother-in-law, testified that he had ‘the legal right to the entire estate of the late Francisco de Goya y Lucientes and the late Josefina or Josefa Bayeu, his parents’. Back in Bordeaux on 24 May, he deposited the necessary documents with the Royal Notary and the monies began to be released. Goya had left an estate which was valued at