Don Manuel Osorio De Zuniga
by FRANCISCO JOSE DE GOYA Y LUCIENTES (Spanish School)
WHEN Goya was born, almost a century after the death of Velasquez, the whole
of Europe, led by France, was preparing a battle royal for the new freedom.
He lived beyond four- score years, and from his childhood when he was dis
covered-so the story goes-drawing with a lump of charcoal on the walls
of his native village, to his exile in Bordeaux where, a dark old man, gouty
and stone-deaf, he drew from memory those great lithographs of the bull ring,
he drenched the decaying soul of Spain with a torrent of vitality.
In the energy
and scope of his assault on art, in the restlessness of his imagination and the
invigorating assertiveness of his life, he was the forerunner of the new free
dom in painting.
Spain was rotten in body and soul, a shattered civilization,
bankrupt mentally and physically. Art was dead-since Velasquez there had
not been a name worth recording.
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Goya had virility-he was the father of
some twenty legitimate children-and intellect, the only intellect in Spain;
and when his powers were finally extinguished by a stroke of apoplexy, he
had wrought the most comprehensive history of a period ever written in
Goya’s life is enmeshed in legends which he took the trouble neither to in
vent nor correct.
It is known that he came from the lowest stratum of society,
and by brute strength and the temerity of genius rose to the top of his pro
fession and became the most famous character of his times; that he won the
post of first court painter to the King, and painted with inexorable veracity
despite his vacillating political pretensions; that his fame and sensuality led
him into many intrigues; that he scoured every layer of society for his mate
rial; and that in his old age he visualized his country as a nightmare of mon
Goya’s headlong seizure of life was not conducive to a reflective
art, but he was, at bottom, a man of plain tastes and, in his less irascible
moods, of strong domestic ties.
He loved children and painted them from un
limited paternal experience, with wise, tender, credulous faces, and firm small
bodies tapering down to delicate feet and ankles.
He painted young Manuel
Osorio, he said, to convince his friends that a Spanish child might rival the
imperial distinction of the old Italians; but to show his contempt for the
classics, he introduced, as Hogarth had done before him, household pets,
the prominent cat being the most predacious little animal in modern painting.