(b. 1746, Zaragoza, d. 1793, Aranjuez)

The Blind Singer

c. 1786
Oil on canvas, 93 x 145 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

The blind man is sitting on a grassy knoll in a once smart but now ragged suit of brightest blue with a yellowish-brown cloak draped over his shoulders and the hurdy-gurdy on his lap. A little further down the slope, dressed in rags of grey, stands his young companion, playing on the castanets; a dog, prancing on its hind legs, is looking up at him. Bayeu shows a scene of beggars in a genre of poverty that has a long tradition in Spain. Yet this painting shows poverty and humility only in its objects.

The composition itself is diametrically opposed to the content: the bright blue of the clothing corresponds with the bright blue of the sky. The face of the singer - the face of a martyr and a poet - is solemnly illuminated by a warm glow and the contours of his figure are sharply and clearly outlined against the background. The vibrant green of the grass, the royal blue of the clothing, the flash of a brilliant red waistcoat all combine to create a magnificently elegant sense of harmony. Because the colour of the sky is linked with that of the beggar's costume, it elevates his figure to the level of great and memorable. The handling of colour, the clarity of composition turn the figure of the blind singer into a monument. The Neoclassicist stylistic techniques present their power to monumentalise a "lowly" scene.