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Executions of the Third of May, 1808

Executions of the Third of May, 1808

 “Executions of The Third of May, 1808” is a painting of famous Spanish artist Francisco de Goya. This masterpiece was completed just in 1814, despite the fact that represented events had taken place earlier. Such delay is explained by presence of Napoleonic occupation forces, which withdraw just that year. “The Third of May” is the second painting in the series of print drawn in 1812-1815, called “The Disasters of War”. This set was devoted to heroic resistance of Spanish against Napoleon’s army.

The fact of carnage is transmitted to the sombre and bleak mood of the painting.  Goya uses sallow tones with overall strong contrast of light and dark.  Chiaroscuro or technique based on the dramatic lightning is used to depict central figure – young Spanish with outstretched arms, which form a “V” line by his hands. The collar of young hero and light from the lantern, which illuminates the scene, also make the “V” line. This “V” line can symbolize the main value of Spanish countrymen of that time – victory. The image of the main character has some analogies with Jesus Christ upon the cross. Appearing on his right hand stigmata is one more argument for this statement. Illumination of the sand shows the division of figures: on illuminated – positive victims, on dark one – cruel executioners. Illumination symbolizes the Enlightenment and hope of human conduct by its French bearers. French soldiers are in the shadow and there is no possibility to identify them as their faces are turned away. Highly contoured forms of the soldiers symbolize faceless but real threat. Worth mentioning the fact that faces of Spanish countrymen show human feelings: pain, fear, defiance and doom, taking to consideration criterion of texture. The painter with the help of indistinct brushstrokes shows uncertainty of the future of Spaniards. Figures are drawn with by broad and rough brushstrokes.

In “The Third of May”, Goya with a dark vision of innocent Spanish countrymen executed by French soldiers asserts the Romanticism. In this framework, the idea of inevitability of death looks suitable. He sharply rejects Neo-Classicism and shows that present should take its primacy over an idealized past.

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