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

A Prison Scene

1810-14 or 1793-94
Oil on zinc, 43 x 32 cm
Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

This prison scene is related in style and character to a number of small paintings of war scenes and other subjects inspired by the Napoleonic invasion. Prisoners - not only prisoners of war - are among the victims of injustice and cruelty that figure in many of Goya's drawings and engravings. A garroted man is the subject of one of his earliest etchings and various other forms of punishment and torture are represented in later graphic works. Three etchings of about 1815 show chained and shackled prisoners very similar to those in the painting. This prison scene, executed with a minimum of colour, is remarkable for the atmosphere of gloom and the effect of anonymous suffering created by the lightly painted, indistinct figures in an enormous cavern-like setting.

Comparison with The Yard of a Madhouse lead critics to date this painting as early as 1793-94.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.