Colossus (painting by Francisco Goya)


July 5, 2022

Colossus also known as the Giant or Panic (Spanish: El coloso) - oil painting by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya, created around 1808–1812 or 1818–1825. Interpreting this enigmatic work, which depicts a panicky giant, has become a challenge for art critics. They were analyzed taking into account the historical background, literary sources of the era and Goya's interest in the figure of a giant. Completely different, and often even contradictory, interpretations of this work seem equally accurate. Most of the interpretations proposed for this picture, especially for the figure of the giant itself, are dominated by the idea that it is an allegory of the horrors of war; a vision of terror and chaos brought about by armed conflict. The painting became an emblematic work of the Spanish Independence War and was probably created during its duration. Since 1931, the painting has been in the collection of the Prado Museum. Since 2008, Goya's authorship has been openly questioned by some art historians associated with the Prado Museum. The international debate sparked off by the Madrid museum divided connoisseurs of Goya and provoked antagonistic reactions. Prado cataloged the painting as the work of a painter's follower, but in 2021 restored the attribution of Goya.

Circumstances of the creation

The date when the painting was created is unknown, most probably it was painted during the Spanish War of Independence in 1808–1814. It was listed as No. 18 in the inventory of Goya's works compiled by the artist and his son in 1812 after the death of the painter's wife, Josefa Bayeu. This date also determines the terminus ante quem of the painting's creation. The "X. 18 ”(X denoted the works that went to Javier Goya after the division of property) is visible in the lower left corner on older photos of the painting, for example the one from 1930, when it was included in the Prado collection. Apart from the title Giant (Spanish Un gigante), the inventory does not contain other details describing it. During this period, the European political scene was dominated by Napoleon Bonaparte's military conquests. As Spain controlled access to the Mediterranean, it became a strategic target for France. Charles IV, who reigned in Spain, was internationally regarded as an inept ruler, and his position was threatened by the pro-British heir, Prince Ferdinand. Napoleon took advantage of the naivety of Charles IV and proposed the joint conquest and partition of Portuguese territory, while the real goal was to introduce French troops to Spain and seize power in the country. Under the guise of strengthening the Spanish army, 23,000 French soldiers entered Spain in November 1807. Charles IV was forced to abdicate in favor of his son. Ferdinand VII assumed the throne, counting on Napoleon's protection, but Napoleon forced the Bourbons to leave the country and resign from the throne in favor of his brother Joseph. Napoleon's troops invaded Spain and committed all kinds of crimes. The massacres, destruction and looting were illustrated by Goya in the figures of The Horrors of War. The painter witnessed the brutal subjugation of the Spanish population by the French army, as evidenced by the commentary on Figure 44, I saw it. The Colossus is often considered a symbol of this war and the Spanish resistance. Like other Spanish liberals, Goya found himself in a difficult position in the face of the French invasion. Initially, he supported the ideals of the French Revolution, believing that the Enlightenment ideas would free Spain from feudalism and instill democracy in it. However, Goya's culture and his affiliation with the circle of enlightened reformers turned against him. Branded as afrancesado (French), suspected of treason, he helplessly watched the fall of his homeland and personal convictions. It is possible that he was going through an identity crisis, which together with and with