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

Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta

Oil on canvas, 117 x 79 cm
Institute of Arts, Minneapolis

In this highly original composition Goya has portrayed himself sitting up supported by his friend Dr Arrieta who is holding a glass to his mouth. The shadowy figures in the background are perhaps allusions to nightmare visions conjured up during his illness. They recall the dark figures in some of the paintings with which Goya covered the walls of the Quinta del Sordo, where he was living during his illness, in retirement from the court. Above all, they resemble the attendants of the priest giving communion to St Joseph of Calasanz. Painted no doubt during his convalescence like the cabinet pictures he painted when he was recovering from his earlier illness of 1793, he has successfully re-created or remembered his appearance when he was near to death: a transformation of his appearance five years earlier.

Goya presented his portrait to his doctor, Eugenio Garcia Arrieta, whom he esteemed highly a far cry from his earlier attitude to the ignorant ass of a doctor, the subject of his Capricho no. 40 entitled De que mal morirá?. (Of What Ill Will he Die?). This portrait was evidently admired as a painting or for its subject as two copies were made by Goya's pupil Asencio Julia. It also was singled out for special praise by his friend and biographer Valentin Carderera (1835): 'The canvas in which he portrayed himself on his deathbed, at the moment when the distinguished Dr Arrieta was giving him the draught which restored him to his country and to his numerous admirers, is a work that recalls all the vigour and mastery of his best years. His likeness of himself in agony and the physiognomy of the doctor, animated by the most benevolent expression, are drawn and coloured with the greatest mastery. Throughout the work it seems that Goya was trying to rejuvenate his talent in order to show the extent of his gratitude.'