Le 3 Mai 1808 Goya Analysis Essay

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Formal Analysis

This is a painting of the Spanish painter Francisco Goya entitled El 3 de Mayo de 1808 (The Third of May, 1808). The work was painted in 1814. It is an Oil on canvas and it is dimensions are 8’9” x 3’4”. It is located at the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Spain. It is not known very well for what purpose, although every indication says that Goya’s intention was to capture the struggle of the Spanish people against French domination. May 2 was the start of the uprising of many protests against Napoleon’s forces in the city of Madrid. This day was the beginning of the Spanish War of Independence. The painting was painted in 1814, six years after the uprising. It says that this work was part of a set of 2 paintings. The work is set in a real space and also reflects a real situation that happened during that period. We can see that it is scale, as the sizes of the prisoners and the military are very even, it also has very real characteristics, you can distinguish the facial features on the people being executed.

On the other hand the French military are painted as killing machines, their silhouettes are impersonal because they have no face, all in the same approach. In the painting the lines stand out, these are present on the lamp, on the guns of the French military and the silhouette of the buildings that are in the background. To achieve some effects spots were placed, these can be seen in the blood of dead people who are on the floor, they were also used to give effect to the hills found in the back. Goya uses warm colors like black, red, brown and tan. You can say that cool colors are seen, like white on the shirt and on the lamp and grays, but the predominant colors are warm. Some colors show shade, as colors like blue-green are used, this can be seen on the belt or holster the sword of one of the soldiers, there are also saturation in some colors, like red.

Third of May, 1808


Francisco Goya

Painted 1814-1815

The Third of May, 1808 painted by Francisco Goya depicts the battle at Medina del Rio Seco in Spain. Napoleon's troops marched into Medina del Rio Seco to be met by 21,000 Spanish troops protecting their city. Napoleon's troops lost 1,000 men, while the Spanish lost 3,500. Goya's painting reveals the fear and suffering of the Spanish, while Napoleon's troops show no mercy.

The Man in the White Shirt

The Man in the White Shirt is a Christ figure. His stance is similar to Christ on the Cross. The man is a martyr for the rest of the town, which is why his white cloths are not soiled. He is wearing a clean, white shirt, which is a signifigant difference compared to the other Spaniards. The towns people are wearing dirty, blood stained cloths of dark colors.

He gives Napoleon's troops a pleeding look, knowing that he is about to be shot. Each of the townspeople have distinct facial expressions telling their stories.

The Man has his arms spread in a "V" which repersents peace, something Napoleon's troops clearly have no regard for.

The people who have already been shoot have casually been tossed aside to make room for the next victims. The monk preys over their dead bodies, perhaps in an effort to give them some peace. The man with his arms spread in a "V" looks pained, even in death. He, too, is asking for peace from the troops.


Napoleon's troops' faces cannot be seen from the paintings viewer. However, the townspeople have a clear view of their faces and find themselves staring down the barrel of their guns. The troops are bathed both in darknes and light, which reveals their clothing to also be clean and unsoiled with the victims' blood.

The unsoiled clothing shows how the troops were above dirty clothing, placing them at a heigher level than the victims.

To the troops, the victims seem anonymous and worthless, while we can see otherwise. The darkness of the painting shows impending doom, which is brought by the troops.

Any regard for live is quickly cut down by the troops firing squad.


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