Highlighted in color, in the center of the group of pilgrims the enlarged portrait of Napoleon (39 x 30 cm) in the painting The Pilgrimage of San Isidro.
By Antonio Muñoz-Casayús / Edited and translated into English by Miguel Escobar Hoyos Why did the Spanish painter immortalize the French Emperor by discreetly painting his likeness in "The Pilgrimage of San Isidro"? The painting is one of fourteen "Black Paintings" he painted in a farm house outside Madrid just before he exiles himself to France. The farm house is a “Time Capsule” containing works of art with hidden messages that are only now revealing themselves to the world!
The discovery of the portrait of Napoleon in the Pilgrimage of San Isidro painting by Antonio Munoz-Casayús, led him to recognize and identify more than 20 other political and social figures of Goya’s contemporaries.
Goya caricaturized these personalities in order to hide their true identities from the authorities of the time. He did so to avoid prison or forced exile.
The discovery of these personalities and their role in the painting, contradicts the widely held belief by experts that the 14 (+1) Black Paintings by Goya were works without any specific meaning, painted by a sickly old man at the end of his career.
1808-1814: The drums of war in Spain threaten America ...
The Emperor begins the invasion of Spain and Portugal in order to consolidate a dominant position in Western Europe. A victory over the Iberian Peninsula would by default, secure his control over all of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies from North to South of the American continent. If his plan were to be successful, the Napoleonic Empire would possess a vast wealth of raw materials and expand his obligatory military draft pool amongst his new subjects thus fueling the size and power of his armies.
Napoleon set up a trade blockade against England called the "Continental System" which prevented it from all commercial trade with the rest of Europe. The goal was to ruin England financially.
In 1808, Spain burns and bleeds from all sides. It is a country in economic bankruptcy for close to two hundred years. The Napoleonic invasion and the War of Independence did nothing but increase the hardship of the Spanish patriots.
Goya, a graphic and vital chronicler of current events and their consequences, had long contemplated his exile to France. His liberal friends had been executed, imprisoned or deported. He cannot wait to leave Spain.
After defeating the French with the help of the British, and upon his return to Spain in July 1814, King Ferdinand VII, thinking that Goya had collaborated with Napoleon and his sympathizers, said: "Goya, not only do you deserve death, but the Gallows! If I forgive you, it's because I admire you!"
Having already suffered the unbearable trauma of two inquisitorial courts and without raising further suspicion, Goya methodically plans his escape to France.
Needless to say, freedom awaits Goya far from Madrid.
“He who cannot put out the fire of his house must abandon it.", Francisco de Goya, 1824.
GOYA PREPARES A TIME CAPSULE BEFORE EXILING HIMSELF TO FRANCE
Goya knows that his last days in Madrid are numbered. He moves away from the center of the city to a village in the outskirts where he can avoid gossip about his relationship with Leocadia Weiss as well as his nosey neighbours. In February, 1819, he buys the Huerta del Baño del Caballo property, otherwise known as the Quinta del Sordo which he transforms into a Time Capsule for posterity.
It should be noted that Goya had visited this property in 1812, seven years earlier upon the death of his dearly beloved wife, Josefa Bayeu. The property was located on the right bank of the Manzanares River, next to the bridge of Segovia, where the pilgrimage to the San Isidro hermitage begins. In the early nineteenth century, the area was a beautiful landscape of fields and country homes.
Given the unbearable situation for all Spanish democrats in absolutist Spain, his final destination was undoubtedly France. However, before leaving, he feels compelled to write his last message for history and therefore elects this farm house which meets with the conditions of privacy that he sought. There would be no more witnesses of his creations other than his immediate family. His friends have either left for exile in France or are been persecuted in their own country.
Goya has made his decision but still needs time. The time to rearrange the house, paint the fourteen murals that would decorate its walls and leave the property in the hands of his grandson Mariano, to conserve and maintain for his sporadic visits back from Bordeaux.
Goya knows all too well that he cannot buy time, even less at 75 years old and after suffering a very serious disease that same year.
There is no time to lose, so Goya gets right to work and paints rapidly. He conceives his works in his head long before putting brush to canvas. If he has to change anything, he only does it in the final phase of his work.
In a very short time, he creates fourteen paintings (Charles Yriarte, in 1867 mentions a fifteenth) on the walls of the small farm house. The dimensions of the paintings are irregular as they have to accommodate the existing walls of each of the rooms.
He remained in the house until his exile to Bordeaux in June, 1824.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PAINTINGS AFTER GOYA’S DEATH?
In 1874, Jean Laurent photographed the fourteen mural paintings in Goya’s farm house before they were removed and transferred to canvas by the painter and restorer of the El Prado Museum, Salvador Martínez Cubells between 1874 and 1878. The work was commissioned by the French banker, Émile d’Erlanger, who was the new owner of the farm house.
D’Erlanger brought the Black Paintings to the Paris Universal Exposition of 1878 with the intention of selling them but was unsuccessful and had no interest from buyers.
In 1881, d’Erlanger donated the paintings to the Spanish state and had them placed in the El Prado Museum, where they have remained since 1889.
The painter’s farm house was left abandoned for a long time thereafter until it was finally demolished in 1909 because of its advanced state of deterioration.
Note by the editor:
WHAT ANTONIO MUÑOZ-CASAYUS DISCOVERED 200 YEARS LATER!
This is an unparalleled moment in the history of Goya. Goya immortalized Napoleon on the walls of the Quinta del Sordo farm house. His face is characteristically Napoleon and his look is penetrating. He is the only character in the painting that is looking straight into the eyes of the observer, whether he is looking at the painting from one angle or another.
He is surrounded by his companions, but undistracted by the group nor their follies and their happy pilgrimage. Goya makes Napoleon, the center of the painting.
Napoleon looks directly into our eyes while his companions go on with their merriment and festivities. Napoleon is the center of the universe and he knows it. His grin deceives him and Goya will not lose the opportunity to reflect this moment in history.
Perhaps Goya wanted to depict a Napoleon that was concealing his real objectives from his allies in Spain.
For over 200 years, Francisco De Goya’s personal democratic beliefs were kept secret from the Spanish and French politicians and authorities of the day. He did so to escape certain death or exile. That would have been his fate if his enemies would have discovered the secrets in his paintings.
And until today, the Black Paintings were simply considered dark illustrations with no specific meaning, painted by a sickly and deaf man at the end of his career. On the contrary however, Goya ingeniously created these paintings with hidden messages. The Pilgrimage of San Isidro is full of images that tell their own separate story.
The Quinta del Sordo was Goya’s Time Capsule for future generations.
This is the first of a series of seven (7) articles prepared by the researcher, Antonio Muñoz-Casayus related to his discoveries and observations of Francisco De Goya’s painting, “The Pilgrimage of San Isidro”.