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The beds of death
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

The beds of death

Ca. 1813. Red chalk on laid paper.
Not on display

If death has been explicit and omnipresent over the course of the numerous Hunger prints, its name has not appeared in their titles until now. This work may be one of the most expressive of all, as well as one of the most meditative. Goya’s ideas for this composition were clear from the beginning, and the scant differences between the preparatory drawing and the final print are due almost exclusively to the fact that they employ different graphic techniques: red chalk, for the former, and etching for the latter. The subject was not clear to the work’s earliest critics. In 1918, Beruete was the first to grasp the emotional content of this image, which he called an “impressive and tragic scene, admirably rendered, straightforward and steeped in emotion, which recalls those decisive moments of silence in which not a word is uttered, but everything is said” (Beruete 1916-18, III, p. 91). This scene has been related to the large number of bodies that built up in hospitals during the famine that struck the capital. There were not enough beds, so they lay on the hallway floors, covered with little more than blankets, awaiting their inevitable deaths. Here, Goya presents a woman almost entirely covered by a blanket that stops just above the bottom of her skirt. She covers her face to avoid the sight and smell of such a horrendous situation. It matters very little whether the bodies lined up behind her are alive or not, as death is omnipresent. It has hovered around the previous prints, and will do so around the following ones, as well, and the title of this one makes that clear. Still, this image’s protagonist is alive and is trying to walk around the row of deathbeds, and to avoid their beckoning fate. The sense of transit is suggested by the slight diagonal established by the horizontally aligned bodies, and this marks the woman’s movement towards the foreground. Compositionally, Goya accentuates her solitude by darkening the background that emphasizes her verticality. Once again, Goya presents an image this is more than simply something he may have witnessed in Madrid in those years. By stripping it of any concrete reference to a specific location, he imbues it with a more transcendent significance, making it a universal image of man’s aloneness and anguish in the face of death. (Text from: Matilla, J.M.: Las Camas de la muerte, in: Goya en tiempos de Guerra, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008, p. 332)


Technical data

Related artworks

The beds of death
Wash, Etching, Burnisher, Burin, Drypoint on ivory paper, 1812 - 1814
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Inventory number
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
The beds of death
Ca. 1813; 1812 - 1814
Red chalk
Laid paper
Height: 147 mm; Width: 205 mm
Desastres de la guerra [dibujo]
Javier Goya, Madrid, 1828; Mariano Goya, Madrid, 1854; Valentín Carderera, Madrid, c. 1861; Mariano Carderera, Madrid, 1880; Museo del Prado, 1886.

Bibliography +

D'Achiardi, Pierre, Les Dessins de D. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes au Musée du Prado à Madrid, II, D. Anderson, Roma, 1908.

Beruete y Moret, Aureliano de, Goya, Blass y Cía, Madrid, 1916, pp. 91.

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

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

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier, Sala de los dibujos de Goya, II, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1928, pp. 26, n.154.

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Los desastres de la guerra de Goya y sus dibujos preparatorios, Instituto Amatller de Arte Hispánico, Barcelona, 1952, pp. 26, 69, 177.

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier, Los dibujos de Goya reproducidos a su tamaño y en su color. Estudios para Los Caprichos, Los Desastres de la guerra, La Tauromaquia y dibujos no grabados, I, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1954, pp. 123.

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, pp. nº 1099.

Sayre, Eleanor, The Changing Image. Prints by Francisco Goya, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1974, pp. 194.

Gassier, Pierre, Dibujos de Goya. Estudios para Grabados y Pinturas, II, Noguer, Barcelona, 1975, pp. 286.

Derozier, C., La Guerre D'Independance Espagnole a Travers L'Estampe (1808..., II, Universidad de Lille, Lille, 1976, pp. 931.

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Goya: dibujos, Silex, Madrid, 1980, pp. 44.

Stuffmann, Margret, Goya. Zeichnungen und Druckgraphik, Stadelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt Am Main, 1981, pp. 182.

Mena Marqués, Manuela B., El "cuaderno italiano", 1770-1786: los orígenes del arte de Goya, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1994.

Blas, Javier, El libro de los desastres de la guerra Francisco de Goya. Vol. I, Museo del Prado: R.A.B.A.S.F., Madrid, 2000.

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

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

Goya en tiempos de guerra, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 332.

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 Y Madrid, 2009, pp. 204.

Matilla, J.M. Mena M.B., Goya: dibujos. Solo la voluntad me sobra, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2019, pp. 206 nº128.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Gassier, 1975. Núm. II 211.

Colección Dibujos Goya (Numeración Sánchez Catón). Núm. 154.

Catálogo Goya, Pierre Gassier y Juliet Wilson. Núm. 1099.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed. Back, Upper left area

"9" (repasado)
Inscribed. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

Goya: Dibujos del Museo del Prado. Melbourne
25.06.2021 - 03.10.2021

Goya. Drawings. "Only my Strength of Will Remains"
20.11.2019 - 16.02.2020

Solo la voluntad me sobra. Dibujos de Francisco de Goya
19.11.2019 - 16.02.2020

Goya in Times of War
15.04.2008 - 13.07.2008

Goya: El cuaderno italiano
24.06.1994 - 21.08.1994

Update date: 04-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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