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Unhappy mother!
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

Unhappy mother!

1812 - 1814. Red chalk on laid paper.
Not on display

When Goya penciled his tiles on the complete set of prints that he gave to his friend, Ceán Bermúdez, each word was rigorously adapted to the composition and to the critical intentions with which it had been conceived. Such is also the case with this preparatory drawing, in which the woman’s condition as a mother is emphasized by the presence of her young daughter, while the adjective, hapless, which he adds to the print expresses the adversity that has led to her death. As one of a group of compositions dedicated to the horrors of famine, this work is uncommonly eloquent in conveying the fragility of life and the loneliness of the human condition. Women constitute the narrative thread of the famine prints, caring for and protecting their children, or carrying out acts of charity among the most needy. In Disaster 44, I saw it, Goya captured a mother’s concern for her child, emphasizing her valiant stance in the face of the cowardice of fleeing authorities. Beginning with print number 48, however, the tragic drama of maternity in the face of life’s adversity becomes more intense. In a manner that recalls religious Madonnas, mothers appear with children on their laps and suffering expressions that bring out the tragic situation, culminating with the presence of children left to fend for themselves after their mothers’ death. Such is the case in the present composition, where a woman’s lifeless body is being carried away by three men. Goya masterfully relates the figures in this composition through their gazes, leading our eye from the young mother’s beautiful head to the heartbreaking sobs of her daughter. A comparison of the preparatory drawing with the completed print reveals one of the methods most frequently employed by Goya to emphasize the sense of pathos: darkening the compositions with aquatint to create dense atmospheres in which the figures stand out with their own powerful inner light. Thus, Goya draws our gaze to what he wants to emphasize: the mother’s supine body, the faces and bodies of the men carrying her, the sobbing girl, and further back, the remains of another female war victim. Together, these figures create a continuous sequence, an arch that accentuates the idea of beginning and end, life and death. If the title seems to indicate that the dead mother is the protagonist, it is no less certain that the composition underlines the loneliness and vulnerability of her orphaned daughter. That vulnerability is brought out by the contrast between the size of the adults and that of the girl, and her loneliness is conveyed by her placement somewhat behind the rest, in the immense empty space that surrounds her. With just a few lines to define her hands as she rubs away her tears, Goya masterfully represents the little girl’s inconsolable weeping in the face of her tragic situation and her uncertain future (Text drawn from Matilla, J. M.: Madre infeliz!, in: Matilla, J. M. and Mena, M. B.: Goya: Luces y Sombras, Barcelona: Fundación La Caixa, 2012, p. 204).


Technical data

Related artworks

Hapless Mother!
Etching, Aquatint, Burnisher, Drypoint on ivory paper, 1812 - 1814
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Inventory number
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Unhappy mother!
1812 - 1814
Red chalk
Laid paper
Height: 170 mm; Width: 219 mm
Desastres de la guerra [dibujo], 50
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.

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. 25, n.142.

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

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. 111.

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 1075.

Gassier, Pierre, Dibujos de Goya. Estudios para grabados y pinturas, II, Noguer, Barcelona, 1973, pp. 262.

Derozier, C., La Guerre D'Independance Espagnole a Travers L'Estampe (1808..., II, Universidad de Lille, Lille, 1976, pp. 915.

Pérez Sánchez, A. E., Mena Marqués, M. B., Goya, Europalia, Bruselas, 1985, pp. 239.

Blas, Javier, El libro de los desastres de la guerra Francisco de Goya, 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.

Matilla J.M., Goya: en tiempos de guerra, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 328.

Miradas sobre la Guerra de la Independencia, Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, 2008.

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. 180.

Goya: luces y sombras. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo, 2011, pp. 190-191.

Matilla, J. M., Goya: luces y sombras, Fundación la Caixa y Museo Nacional del Prado, Barcelona y Madrid, 2012, pp. 204.

Matilla Rodríguez, José Manuel, Ligereza y atrevimiento. Dibujos de Goya, Fundación Botín, Santander, 2017, pp. 110 n.62.

Matilla, J.M. Mena M.B., Goya: dibujos. Solo la voluntad me sobra, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2019, pp. 202 nº 124.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Gassier, 1975. Núm. II 199.

Colección Dibujos Goya (Numeración Sánchez Catón). Núm. 142.

Catálogo Goya, Pierre Gassier y Juliet Wilson. Núm. 1075.

Inscriptions +

"142"(sobre adhesivo)
Inscribed in pen and ink. Back, right side

Inscribed. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

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

Ligereza y atrevimiento. Dibujos de Goya
22.06.2017 - 30.09.2017

Goya: luces y sombras. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado
15.03.2012 - 24.06.2012

Goya: luces y sombras. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado / Goya: Lights and Shadows. Masterpieces of the Museo del Prado
22.10.2011 - 29.01.2012

Goya in Times of War
15.04.2008 - 13.07.2008

Miradas sobre la Guerra de Independencia Española
29.02.2008 - 25.05.2008

Update date: 22-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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