Reflection Paper: The Third of May 1808

Free «Reflection Paper: The Third of May 1808» Essay Sample

This reflection paper is an analysis of a selected work of art. The paper provides a title for the work of art, the name of the artist and the date when the work was done. The paper also closely explores the interpretation of the artwork. Finally, the paper includes the discussion that identifies my suspicion of what might have been the intent of the artist for making the artwork.

Title of the artwork: The Third of May 1808

Name of the artist: Francisco Goya, a Spanish painter

Date of make: 1814

Made at Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

The Third of May 1808 is an artwork by Francisco Goya who was a Spanish painter. The artwork portrays the battle that took place at Medina del Rio Seco in Spain. It gives an illustration of the execution of those Spaniards who were captured on the Principe Pio hill, a hill that was located just outside Madrid during those times. The Madrid citizens got a swift and barbarous retribution from the French invaders. The painting gives an example of the dark tonalities and fluid brushstrokes that represented the later period of Goya’s artworks (Wood, 45). The Spanish tried to protect their city. During the war, Napoleon troops lost about 1,000 of their men while the losses of the Spanish amounted to 3,500 people. The painting is a vivid revelation of the fears and the suffering that the Spaniards went through. At the same time, it reveals the cruelty of the troops on Napoleon’s side who showed no mercy to Spanish captives.


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Goya decided to produce this work of art to commemorate the death of many Spanish soldiers who tried to withstand the strong siege of the Napoleon armies during the Peninsular War of 1808. The painting is well drawn and has many important elements that can be seen in its content, presentation and the emotional force it carries. The painting secures its status as a famous piece of art since it depicts a groundbreaking, archetypical image of the horrors that became the result of war between two nations.

Goya’s work of art uses many sources from high and popular art. In his painting, Goya evidently depicts his deep impression of military executions of civilians. It is believed that Goya witnessed the executions that happened on Principe Pio hill, watching it from the window of his house. Being the witness of the outcomes of the bloodshed war, he was enraged by what he saw. He immediately went to the spot to witness the dreadful event. It was after what he saw that Goya decided to draw the sketches of the corpses that lay just in the light of lantern. The dark sky in the background is shown as sad and gloomy (Bareau, 23). The place looks lifeless, more of death than life. The only illumination, a sign of hope, comes from a lantern at the feet of the soldiers.

The happening that Goya saw during this rebellious war is well represented in his monumental picture. The picture is drawn in such a way that it perfectly depicts all the drama of the situation. The impression is strengthened by the view of a barren hill beneath the night sky. The white shirt of a one of the captives who is very terrified kneeling with outstretched arms is well shown by the light of a big lantern. The lantern is placed between the victims and the executing troops just beside the man with outstretched arms. The painting emphasizes the horror of the scene of war. The impersonal line of the backs of the soldiers facing the Spanish warriors with leveled muskets, as well as the postures, gestures and expressions also emphasize the horror of the war scene. Goya’s piece of art has many dramatic qualities. It composes a picture with much pity for the ruthless execution of the anonymous victims and celebration of their heroism.

I think Goya’s intent for this piece of art was to depict the dreadful picture of death and horror. This great Spanish painter had his main focus on the lone lantern with its light projected on the victims who are dead or would be dead in the aftermath of the deadly war. Goya tried to pass on a message of the outcomes of the war between two nations fighting over something. There are those who suffer the loss by being killed during such wars and there are those who emerge as victims. The painting also emphasizes the great loss that the warring troops encounter during the wars. The painting also arouses sympathy in the hearts for the brave men who faced death during that war. At the same time, on a closer and more careful analysis of the painting, it may be seen that those dead men do not deserve sympathy; rather, they faced what they truly deserved, justice. The oppression was against them, and thus they faced the massive killing. In his painting, Goya did not show the identity; the faces of the troops conducting the massive executions cannot be seen (Murray, 67). This is done to show that it is of no importance to know who conducts an act of justice.

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Goya’s painting is a timeless work of art. The painting introduces the element of time. The present is represented by the man that is presently being shot. The element of the past is represented by the dead men lying in a pool of blood. The element of the future is represented by the long line of those men who will be killed. The painting pays grieving tribute to those people who are ready to stand up for their beliefs despite the tiresome efforts of the aggressors who are sent to destroy them. The work also shows the price that is paid for the war by both the victims and the aggressors. Goya tries to depict a picture of aggressors who are inhuman with no sympathy in treatment of the people they would try to conquer and eliminate.

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