A selection of Goya’s first two suites of decorative tapestry cartoons (or designs) completed for El Escorial in 1775 and El Palacio Real del Pardo between 1776 and 1778.
Both of these palaces were the residences of the future Carlos IV (reigned, 1788-1808) and his wife, Queen consort of Spain, María Luisa de Parma—they are the Prince and Princess of Asturias for whom the artist did these works.
1. Dining Room of the Princes of Asturias in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, 1775.
This cartoon called Decoy Hunting is part of the first commission that Goya received for the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Bárbara in 1774-1775. It was part of a series of fourteen tapestries—of which Goya rendered nine of them. They depicted hunting subjects, a keen passion for the Spanish nobility, to hang as decoration in the dining room at El Escorial of the Prince and Princess of Asturias.
Newly arrived to Madrid in January 1775 , Goya completed and submitted his cartoons for this commission between May and October 1775.
This is Goya’s tapestry cartoon of two hunting dogs chained together—one of which sits up and holds a fixed gaze on the viewer—with hunters’ tools on the ground. It is part of a series of decorative tapestries depicting hunting subjects for the new Bourbon rooms installed in 1773 by the architect Juan de Villanueva (1739-1811) at El Escorial.
Goya, newly arrived to Madrid from Zaragoza in 1775, was brought into the project because one of its originators, Ramón Bayeu y Subías (1746-1793), after having completed five of the intended fourteen cartoons by March 1775, was appointed to assist painter Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–1779) at El Palacio Real de Madrid in the execution of several frescoes there.
Goya rendered the remaining nine cartoons, six of which are included in this blog post.
Hunting Party is one of the nine cartoons Goya provided for the royal dining room at El Escorial. This cartoon scene displays different types of hunting.
While Goya worked closely with the designs of Ramón and elder brother Francisco Bayeu y Subías (1734-1795), the originators of this project, the young artist placed his own stamp upon the commissioned work.
Goya’s sprinting greyhound, for instance, provides an original and engaging study of how to represent rapid animal movement in a painting.
Paired with Hunter Loading his Rifle (below), the cartoon called Hunter with his hounds is for a tapestry in El Escorial to hang by a door (or window).
The cartoon is notable in part for Goya’s successful rendering of “a modern figure in a landscape”—a hunter depicted from the back with a rifle on his shoulder and two leashed dogs. Goya’s late 18th-century artistic accomplishment became a leading challenge for late-19th century French Impressionists such as Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).
Goya’s cartoon is called Hunter loading his rifle. It depicts a face-forward hunter with a sitting dog who stares at the viewer. In the background are others in the hunting party. The design is for a dining room tapestry at El Escorial for the future Carlos IV (1748-1819) and his wife, María Luisa de Parma (1751-1819). It is paired with Hunter with his hounds.
Two activities are represented in this cartoon scene—fishing and hunting—with a transition between them marked in the sports’ different tools overlapping in the middle of the canvas.
The Angler completed the commission begun in 1774 by Francisco and Ramón Bayeu to prepare a set of fourteen tapestry cartoons for the decoration of the dining room of the future Carlos IV and María Luisa de Parma at El Escorial, of which Goya produced nine of them. The theme of hunting was specifically selected to merge with the monarchs’ use of El Escorial in the autumn as a hunting grounds.
2. Dining Room of the Princes of Asturias in the Palace of El Pardo, 1776-1778.
The Picnic is part of Goya’s 10-tapestry decorative cartoon series depicting leisure in the countryside for a dining room tapestry at El Pardo for the Prince and Princess of Asturias. Notable for its foreground still life, this scene depicts young revelers sitting on the banks of the Manzanares River at Madrid’s periphery.
The Picnic is joined in Goya’s second cartoon series by Dance on the Banks of the Manzanares, A Fight at the Venta Nueva, An Avenue in Andalusia (or The Maja and the cloaked Men), The Drinker, The Parasol, The Kite, The Card Players, Children blowing up a Bladder, and Boys picking Fruit.
This is Goya’s preparatory sketch for the cartoon of A Fight at the New Inn, whose name in this early draft is El Mesón del Gallo.
For a tapestry in the royal house, the 32-year-old Goya presents a brutal and ironically humorous scene showing country folk from diverse regions of Spain and of varying social roles using several weapon types to violently contest a card game involving money. Goya’s artistic models for this cartoon range from typical seventeenth century Flemish and Dutch genre scenes to elements of Italian classicism.
Goya’s cartoon called Dance on the Banks of the Manzanares depicts a scene of majos and majas (country folk) dancing the seguidillas, a dance that was popular in Madrid and throughout Spain’s Castile region. The view of the river banks and the figure of the man clapping his hands are composition elements preserved in Goya’s drawing notebook suggesting they were taken from life. The resulting tapestry was to be hung on a wall of the dining room at the Palacio de El Pardo in Madrid for the princes of Asturias. Progressing from his hunting cartoon suite done on behalf of the brothers Bayeu the year or so before, this 10-part series of country life scenes was completely Goya’s own invention.
The tapestry resulting from this cartoon hung in the dining room of the future Carlos IV and Queen consort María Luisa de Parma in El Palacio de El Pardo in Madrid. Notably, Goya initiated with this cartoon the first of his childhood scenes in this series of ten tapestries of “country” subjects for the royal house. In a playful yet dramatic scene, a boy of about 7 or 8 years old inflates an animal bladder as his companion awaits the outcome raising one hand to her heart. Two women seated in the background are perhaps the children’s mothers, one of which presents a melancholic disposition as she holds a hand to the head while the other looks straight ahead at the viewer.
This tapestry cartoon presents an ostensible love scene of a well-dressed young woman with her companion, both of whom Goya identified in the tapestry factory invoice as gitanos, or gypsy people.
The scene is also populated with more stealthily dressed figures, perhaps with their own sinister intent, that suggests an undercurrent of jealous spying on the gitano pair.
For a Madrid royal palace’s dining room (El Pardo), Goya considered this scene a fanciful contemporary walk in far-off Andalucia in southern Spain.
The bottom-to-top perspective view joined by its format indicates that this tapestry cartoon for the El Pardo dining room was intended to decorate an over-arch.
A cortejo holds a green-color parasol to shade an elegant young woman from the Iberian sunshine. Goya’s cartoon could have possibly been modeled on the work of Jean Ranc (1674–1735), a French portrait painter or a lunette entitled Vertumnus and Pomano of Italian painter Pontormo (1494-1557).
If it is the Pontormo that inspired Goya then, in this instance, the artist creatively transformed what was an ancient mythological subject into a scene of modern Spanish life.
Goya describes this scene as young people who “have gone out to the field to fly a kite.” An observably mid-to-late eighteenth century contemporary scene, a majo is smoking, body splayed upon the ground, sending smoke into the air. In the cartoon’s center three majos fly the popular kite with a sun face on it. One figure holds the spindle, another guides its string, and a third in heroic stance, launches and maintains the kite aloft. In the background, couples chat and watch the kite’s flight, while a dog sits and looks towards the viewer. The building in the cartoon’s upper right part has been interpreted as an astronomical observatory, a scientific project popularly spoken of in the days of Carlos III (1716-1788).
A cartoon for a tapestry in the dining room in the Palace of El Pardo in Madrid, one of a series of ten made by Goya between 1776 and 1778. This scene of a young man drinking from a boot with a boy eating a raw turnip snatched out of a meager collection of such vegetables with a round loaf of bread that constitutes the cartoon’s still life has been seen as Goya’s allegory of gluttony. Such would be based on characters from a 1554 Spanish novella entitled The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and of His Fortunes and Adversities which tells the story of a boy named Lazarillo who learns the world’s wiles from a blind beggar to whom he is apprenticed.
The format and bottom-to-top perspective view indicates the modern tapestry cartoon was for an over-window decoration.
Another of Goya’s childhood scenes, this joyful and playful cartoon depicts four boys gathered at a tree to shake down its fruit. It is one of four scenes of a set with Children blowing up a Bladder, The Parasol, and The Drinker which hung as overhead decorations in the dining room at El Pardo. It is part of a series of ten tapestry cartoons of “country” subjects—all conserved in the Prado Museum in Madrid—that Goya composed and produced.
To give this scene an appearance of realism, Goya carefully crafted each individual face and unique expression for each figure which enhances the depiction of country folk cheating and being cheated at cards.
Goya’s accurately-studied contrast of light and shadow enhances his varied colors which works to heighten the scene’s realism.
A group of majos situate themselves in a field under a man’s cloak placed on a tree branch that shadows them from the siesta-time sun as three of them play cards. With gold coins having flitted into the hat on the ground of one of the players, the other two majos study their hands, each with an expression of concern. Darkly humorous, it revealed to the cartoon’s viewer that accomplices who are standing behind two players are sending signals to a third player about their unsuspecting victims’ cards.
The Card Players concludes Goya’s 10-part cartoon series of scenes of country life for the tapestries in the dining room of El Pardo for the princes of Asturias.
Between 1775 and 1792, Goya painted more than 60 cartoons for the Royal Tapestry Factory located in Madrid since 1720 (it moved to its present site by the main train terminal in the nineteenth century). Like its older counterpart in Paris, the Gobelins, the Royal Tapestry Factory supplied the Spanish royal court with tapestries which were among the most prestigious objects owned by them.
By the late eighteenth century, large tapestries were hung in palaces mainly for decoration where Goya’s contemporary scenes illuminated newly-built Bourbon rooms at El Escorial and the dining room at El Pardo. That the Prince and Princess of Asturias hung tapestry scenes about the hunt—an activity that was the future Carlos IV’s passion —or about peasant life had, by 1775, already been the fashionable choice for the ruling class for around two hundred years.
For Goya’s designs to display the artist’s playfully sensuous invention joined with a dark and ironically humorous wit—along with the candid appreciation of the modern scene based on first-hand observation (especially the costumes) as well as using stock social characters doing things that can intelligently impress and amuse a royal audience and their guests—makes these disposable cartoons the more remarkable. The fact that they were retrieved largely intact from the basement of a Madrid royal palace nearly a century after Goya’s death and are to be found taken care of today in the Prado makes being able to study them firsthand almost miraculous.
On Goya’s cartoons:
Goya, Robert Hughes, Knopf, New York, 2003.