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

Still-Life: A Butcher's Counter

Oil on canvas, 45 x 62 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

A dozen bodegones (still lifes) and a painting of birds are recorded in the inventory of Goya's possessions made in 1812 after the death of his wife, and according to his French biographer, Matheron, he painted several still lifes in the market at Bordeaux during his last years there. The present example bears traces of the inventory mark that identifies the earlier group, and is remarkable for the period because of the casual arrangement of the sheep's head with its expressive eye, and sides of mutton. The signature is painted in red as if to simulate blood. For stylistic reasons this and other still lifes of the group - pictures of meat, fish, fowl and game - cannot be much earlier than the date they are recorded in Goya's house. This means that they must have been painted about the time of the 'ano del hambre', the year of the terrible famine in Madrid in 1811-12, when thousands died of hunger, thus raising the question of whether any allusion to the famine was intended by Goya. Were they perhaps meant as a sardonic commentary on the situation in one of the many illustrations of the effects of famine in his Desastres de la Guerra? A well-dressed woman stands before a group of starving victims, some dying, some dead, with the caption: 'The worst is to beg'.

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