Inventory number
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
The Fates or Atropos
1820 - 1823
Mixed technique
Wall (transferred to canvas)
123 cm x 266 cm
Genre and Society
On display
Quinta del Sordo, Madrid. Mariano Goya, 1823. Javier Goya, 1833. Mariano Goya, 1854. Segundo Colmenares, 1859. Louis Rodolphe Coumont, 1863. Baron Frédéric Emile d´Erlanger, 1873. Acquisiton for the Prado Museum, 1881/1889

The mural paintings that decorated the house known as “la Quinta del Sordo,” where Goya lived have come to be known as the Black Paintings, because he used so many dark pigments and blacks in them, and also because of their somber subject matter. The private and intimate character of that house allowed the artist to express himself with great liberty. He painted directly on the walls in what must have been mixed technique, as chemical analysis reveals the use of oils in these works.

The Baron Émile d'Erlanger acquired “la Quinta” in 1873 and had the paintings transferred to canvas. The works suffered enormously in the process, losing a large amount of paint. Finally, the Baron donated these paintings to the State, and they were sent to the Prado Museum, where they have been on view since 1889.

The figure on the right, with her back to the viewer, holds scissors in her hand, leading Brugada to give this painting, with its strange scene, the name of Atropos: one of the Fates, who cut the thread of life. Indeed, the thread is held by the woman on the left, identified as Clotho, who uses it to bind a small human figure wrapped in cloth or paper. In the background, with a magnifying glass or a mirror, is Lachesis, the third of the classical divinities that controlled the lives and destinies of humankind. The figure in the foreground doesn't fit the classical myth of the Fates. The work has allegorical underpinnings and meanings that are more difficult to fathom, corresponding to the complex compositional world of Goya's imagination.

Despite the multiple explanations offered by art historians, these works continue to be mysterious and enigmatic, yet they present many of the esthetic problems and moral considerations appearing in Goya's works.

The mural paintings from “la Quinta del Sordo” (the Black Paintings), have been determinant in the modern-day consideration of this painter from Aragon. The German Expressionists and the Surrealist movement, as well as representative of other contemporary artistic movements, including literature and even cinema, have seen the origins of modern art in this series of compositions by an aged Goya, isolated in his own world and creating with absolute liberty.

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