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It’s a hard step!
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
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Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de

Fuendetodos, Zaragoza (Spain), 1746 - Bordeaux (France), 1828

Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de See author's file

It’s a hard step!

1810 - 1814. Burnished wash, Etching, Burin, Drypoint on wove paper.
Not on display

Execution scenes constitute one of the most outstanding thematic groups in the series. The significant number of prints depicting different versions of this form of repression and extreme violence—Disasters 14, 15, 26, 28, 29, 31 and 39—includes some of the most impressive in terms of expressivity and formal perfection. Viewed as a group, they offer a broad panorama of the terrible diversity of repressive measures taken by both sides of the war. In It’s a hard step!, as in so many other scenes by Goya, there is a semantic ambiguity that allows for different points of view, and this is manifest in texts about this image. Who has been hanged—French soldiers or Spanish guerillas? Early commentators such as Mélida and Brunet interpreted this print as an illustration of the Spanish authorities’ executions of canon Calvo’s collaborators following the latter’s slaughter of Frenchmen in Valencia in 1808. Dérozier later found references in this image to the executions of “frenchified” Spaniards following the extremely summary trials held in Spanish villages and towns after the revolt of 1898. And these works have more recently been linked to the French decrees of 1809 that established tribunals to punish Spanish guerrillas and their collaborators (Vega 1992, pp. 33-34). According to this last idea, the print would not be a image descriptive of certain events, but instead a criticism of those traditional sectors of Spanish society that sought to convert the conflict into a religious war, tricking the ignorant people and leading them to a death with their blessing, just as the clergyman does here by hearing the condemned man’s confession and absolving him. The scene is filled with expressions that effectively convey the moment’s tragic content, including the hands, whose gestural language is steeped in the tradition of religious painting as a means of transmitting the scene’s importance: the tension of the executioner’s hands as they raise the victim, the latter’s, bound at the wrists, that are joined in submission or prayer; those of the priest, with his authoritarian gesture of blessing; and finally, those of the already hanged man in the background, which dangle lifelessly. The different attitudes of each figure are also visible in their facial expressions: defeat, effort, surprise and power. The title is equally eloquent: the step leading to death is so hard that the victim cannot take it by himself. The capturing of a precise moment in time is one of the Disasters’ most interesting contributions. It is not a matter of simply representing a situation, bur rather of including indications that allow us to capture the scene’s momentary nature in a way we would now consider cinematographic. This print is a perfect example, as can be clearly seen in how the figures of the two hanged victims behind the ladder appear to be still swinging. Their angles help the viewer grasp that they have just been thrown off the ladder and may still be momentarily alive. In the face of this representation of the moment, the remaining figures in the composition become antecedents. This formula was also applied to other prints from the Disasters, as well as in The Third of May. (Text from Matilla, J.M.: Duro es el paso, in Goya en tiempos de guerra, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008, p. 300)


Technical data

Related artworks

¡Duro es el paso!
Red chalk on laid paper, 1810 - 1814
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Inventory number
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
It’s a hard step!
1810 - 1814
Burnished wash; Etching; Burin; Drypoint
Wove paper
Height: 143 mm; Width: 168 mm
Desastres de la guerra [estampa], 14
Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid; Eduardo Luis Moreda Fernández; Museo del Prado, 2000

Bibliography +

Brunet, M.G., Étude sur Francisco Goya sa vie et ses travaux, Aubry, Paris, 1865, pp. 51.

Viñaza, Cipriano Muñoz y Manzano Conde de la, Goya: su tiempo, su vida, sus obras, Tip. M.G. Hernández, Madrid, 1887, pp. 368.

Delteil, Loys, Francisco Goya, I, Chez L'Auteur, Paris, 1922.

Mayer, August L., Francisco de Goya, Labor, Barcelona, 1925, pp. 231.

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Los desastres de la guerra de Goya y sus dibujos preparatorios, Instituto Amatller de Arte Hispánico, Barcelona, 1952, pp. 61.

Harris, Tomas, Goya, engravings and lithographs, II, Bruno Cassirer, Oxford, 1964, pp. 196.

Gassier, Pierre y Wilson-Bareau, Juliet, Vie et oeuvre de Francisco de Goya: l' oeuvre complet illustré: peintures, dessins, gravures, Office du Livre, Fribourg, 1970.

Sayre, Eleanor, The Changing Image. Prints by Francisco Goya, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1974, pp. 146.

Derozier, C., La Guerre D'Independance Espagnole a Travers L'Estampe (1808..., II, Universidad de Lille, Lille, 1976, pp. 860.

Vega, Jesusa, Fatales consecuencias de la guerra.Francisco de Goya, pintor, Francisco de Goya, grabador: instantáneas, Caser y Calcografía Nacional, Madrid, 1992, pp. 33.

Vega, Jesusa, Museo del Prado: catálogo de estampas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1992, pp. 87.

Matilla, José Manuel y Blas, Javier, El libro de los desastres de la guerra: Francisco de Goya, Museo Nacional del Prado; Calcografía Nacional, Madrid, 2000, pp. 32-34.

Obras adscritas al Museo Nacional del Prado en el año 2000, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XIX, 2001, pp. 200.

Nieto Alcaide, V., La guerra y lo imaginario en la pintura de Goya. En: Historias inmortales, Barcelona, 2003, pp. 319-329.

Calcografía Nacional (España), Calcografía Nacional: catálogo general, II, Calcografía Nacional, Madrid, 2004, pp. 460.

Bozal, Valeriano, Francisco Goya: vida y obra, II, T.F., Alcobendas ( Madrid ), 2005, pp. 113.

Wilson-Bareau [et alt.], Catalogue, Goya graveur, Chaudun y Paris musées, Paris, 2008, pp. 235.

Matilla, José Manuel, Estampas españolas de la Guerra de la Independencia: propaganda, conmemoración y testimonio, Universidad de Salamanca, 2008.

Matilla, J.M., Goya: en tiempos de guerra, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 300.

Bordes J., Matilla J.M. y Balsells S, Goya, cronista de todas las guerras: los ''desastres'' y la fotografía de guerra, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno y Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria; Madrid, 2009, pp. 108.

Bernardi López Vázquez, José Manuel, En el germen del Liberalismo español. La filosofía neoestoica en los Desastres de la Guerra de Goya., Quintana, 13, 2014, pp. 27 f.19.

Hofmann, Julius, Francisco de Goya: Katalog seines graphischen Werkes, Gesellschaft für vervielfältigende Kunst, Viena, 2014, pp. 91-145.

Filigree +

Motive: Venera e iniciales “J. [G. O.]” (mitad izquierda)

56 x 20 mm
José García Oseñalde
La medida dada es de la venera, la letra mide 33 x 67 mm
Marca de agua en forma de venera e iniciales "J. G. O." característica del papel fabricado por José García Oseñalde, establecido en La Cabrera, Guadalajara. En esta localidad existió fábrica de papel desde por lo menos 1733, como así es recogido por Eugenio Larruga en sus "Memorias políticas y económicas sobre los frutos, comercio, fábricas y minas de España...", de ese año y de 1746. Esta antigua fábrica de papel blanco debió de ser la que José García Oseñalde compró en 1847, junto a un molino de harina llamado "Los Heros", colindante entre las localidades de La Cabrera y Aragosa. La fábrica también debió conocerse con el nombre del molino de harinas, pues así consta en 1886, cuando la fábrica de papel sellado "Los Heros" era propiedad de Pedro García Oseñalde (véase: "El obispado de Sigüenza, ó sea Nomenclátor descriptivo, Geográfico y Estadístico de todos los pueblos del mismo, por un sacerdote de la diócesis", Zaragoza, 1886, p. 21 [Aragosa])

Biblioteca Nacional de España, Catálogo de las estampas de Goya en la Biblioteca Nacional, Biblioteca Nacional, Sociedad Estatal Goya 96 y Lunwerg, Madrid, 1996, pp. 280, fil. 22.
Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, Goya en la Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid:, 1999, pp. 386-387, fil. 14-15.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2564.

Inscriptions +

Front, upper left corner

"23" (raspado y bruñido)
Front, lower left corner

Título de la estampa
Front, lower central area

Update date: 07-07-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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