History : Sep-Oct 2016
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 15 WORK OF ART By spring 1808, it became clear that Napoleon wanted to control the whole Iberian Peninsula. His attempts to pres- sure the Spanish royal family to submit triggered the Madrid uprising. A month later, Napoleon was able to place a new king on the Spanish throne: his own brother, Joseph Bonaparte. The insurgency that followed across Spain was remarkable for several reasons, not least that a ragtag army managed to rout one of history’s greatest generals. It also gave rise to a new type of irregular warfare, led by untrained fighters who came to be known as guerrillas. Goya’s Dilemma When Spain’s monarchy was restored in 1814 under Ferdinand VII, not all Span- iards were cheering. Among these dis- contents was Goya himself. He was then in his late 60s. The burly court painter BRIDGEMAN/ACI COLD-BLOODED MESSAGE JOACHIM MURAT, Napoleon’s lieutenant in Spain, attempted to quell the uprising by swift executions. Prisoners were shot in various parts of the city, including the hill of Príncipe Pío, thought to be the setting of Goya’s painting. Murat ordered that the bodies were to be left at the scene to serve as a chilling reminder of the cost of rebellion. The French Executioners Painted in rigid, repeated lines, Goya’s guns and bayonets foretell the impersonal nature of modern warfare. The Condemned They cover their eyes in terror. Goya’s composition emphasizes the execution as a production line of slaughter. The Lamp Its powerful glow in a pre- electricity age is artistic license: It shines a light into a hidden place of injustice and cruelty. The Kneeling Man Goya’s stocky Madrid worker strikes a Christ-like pose, a gesture conveying both submission and defiance.