A depiction of the execution of patriots from Madrid by a firing squad from Napoleon’s army in reprisal for their uprising against the French occupation on the second of May, 1808.
The French soldiers are at the right of the composition, with their backs to the viewer. They aim their rifles at the Madrilenian who are to die. The scene’s drama and tension are emphasized by the use of light, which strongly illuminates the heroes, making it possible to distinguish their characters and attitudes in a detailed psychological character study.
Along with its companion, The Second of May 1808 in Madrid: the charge of the Mamelukes (P00748), this work was made at the initiative of the Reagent, Luis de Boubon in 1814. Both works may have been used to decorate a triumphal arch during the return of Fernando VII to Madrid, or to commemorate the celebrations of the second of May.
The lower left side still shows the marks of damage suffered when this canvas was transferred to Valencia in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.