GOYA Y LUCIENTES, Francisco de
(b. 1746, Fuendetodos, d. 1828, Bordeaux)

The Second of May, 1808: The Charge of the Mamelukes

Oil on canvas, 266 x 345 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

After the expulsion of the Napoleonic armies in 1814 Goya applied for, and was granted, official financial aid in order 'to perpetuate with the brush the most notable and heroic actions or scenes of our glorious insurrection against the tyrant of Europe'. The two scenes that he recorded are not victorious battles but acts of anonymous heroism in the face of defeat. Here the people of Madrid armed with knives and rough weapons are seen attacking a group of mounted Egyptian soldiers (Mamelukes) and a cuirassier of the Imperial army. The composition, without a focal point or emphasis on any single action, creates a vivid impression of actuality, as if Goya had not only witnessed the scene (as he is alleged to have done) but had recorded it on the spot.