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24 personalities revealed in "Pilgrimage to San Isidro" by Francisco De Goya
Main characters of the 1808 revelry depicted in the “Pilgrimage of San Isidro”painting by Francisco de Goya of 1820-1824. Napoleon Bonaparte is the central figure. Photo: Mariano Candial.

by Antonio Muñoz-Casayús / Edited and translated by Miguel Escobar Hoyos

ZARAGOZA.- In Chapter 1, Antonio Muñoz-Casayús discovers the likeness of Napoleon Bonaparte in "The Pilgrimage of San Isidro". The painting is one of 14 +1(*) "Black Paintings" he painted in a farm house outside Madrid just before he exiles himself to France. The farm house is a grand “Time Capsule” containing works of art with hidden messages that are only now revealing themselves to the world!

The painting itself is a time capsule in and of itself and Napoleon’s likeness is the portal to the time capsule. Antonio Muñoz-Casayús’ discovery led him to recognize and identify more than 24 other political and social figures of Goya’s contemporaries.

Goya caricaturized these personalities in order to hide their true identities from the authorities of the time and to avoid prison or forced exile.

The discovery of these personalities and their role in the painting, contradicts the widely held belief that the Black Paintings by Goya were works without any specific meaning, painted by a sickly old man at the end of his career. Goya may have been old, sick and deaf at the time he created these paintings, however as Muñoz-Casayús reveals in this chapter, his genius was still very much intact.

The Pilgrimage of San Isidro is like a modern day cartoon. Goya is a cartoonist, a photo or image journalist, a war correspondent, a master painter, a humanist and a well informed critic of his time.

(*) A fifteenth Black Painting of Goya, “Cabezas en un paisaje” is believed to be in a private collection in New York.

In Chapter 2, Antonio Muñoz-Casayús opens the time capsule that Goya left for future generations. After discovering the portrait of Napoleon in the group of party goers in the painting of the Pilgrimage of San Isidro, Muñoz-Casayús realizes that the Emperor, who is the only one looking into the eyes of the observer, is the door to a treasure trove of characters that Goya blames for tragedies of the War of Independence.

Goya blames the absolutist and tyrannical policies of the despot Fernando VII for his exile from his beloved Spain to France, a neighbour and safe country which he then adopts as his second homeland.

Goya is one of so many liberal and illustrated friends that had to exile themselves to Bordeaux for political reasons.

In 1814, when Goya returned to Madrid from his self-imposed exile in France, Fernando VII reprimanded him by blurting out the following phrase: “Goya, vos no merecéis sólo la muerte, sino la horca. Si os perdonamos, es porque os admiramos” (“Goya, not only do you deserve death, but the Gallows. If I forgive you, it’s because I admire you!”

However, King Fernando VII does not want enemies at home and Goya is careful not to give him the pleasure and a reason to return him in front of the courts of the Inquisition as he had done twice, in 1814 and 1815, to the Spanish master. As a young man in his home town of Fuendetodos, Goya remembered the popular refrain that “You can only castrate a cat once!” (“Sólo una vez capan al gato…”)

In 1824, King Fernando VII, the felon, now acts more cautiously, remembering Cervantes’ famous military maxim that he used in “Don Quijote de la Mancha”: “Al enemigo que huye, hacedle el puente de plata”. (Provide a quick and easy escape on a silver platter for your fleeing enemy).

In 1825, Goya planned his own “silver escape” to Bayonne, France, by convincing the king to give him permission to travel to the healing waters of Plombières and later, to those of Bagnères. He managed to obtain extensions from the King to extend his stays in neighbouring France and to come and go from Madrid when it suited him. During this time, he also managed to keep his annual salary as first painter of the Court without any obligation to paint. Goya’s escape was not handed to him on a silver platter, Goya’s escape was golden!

List and relationship of the central characters in the “Pilgrimage” of 1808

Goya himself said that he only saw bodies and not lines. “Where does one find lines in nature? I only see luminous bodies and dark bodies; planes that advance and planes that recede, reliefs and cavities”. From the report by Goya to the Academia de San Fernando (October 1792) and from his conversations with Mathéron.

(The author refers to the invasion of Spain by Napoleon and his allies in 1808 and not the painting. Pilgrimage or “Romeria” in Spanish, refers more to a festive event rather than a spiritual pilgrimage. Goya satirizes and criticizes this group of party goers and blames them for their murderous revelry.)

Here below therefore is a list of 24 characters that Goya depicted in the painting “The Pilgrimage to San Isidro”. Several more will be revealed in a further article.

1º.- Alcántara, Pedro de. Duque del Infantado. Served under five governments as Minister of Spain. Bachelor with two known lovers.

2º.- Beauharnais, Josefina de. Married to Napoleón. Empress of France. Fouché, Duke of Otranto and Minister of the Police of the French Republic used her to obtain secret information from the Emperor.

3º.- Bonaparte, María Annunziata Carolina. Princess of France. Sister of Napoleon. Ambitious for power, fame and money. Married to the Marshall of the Empire, Joachim Murat.

4º.-Bonaparte, Joseph. King of Spain also known as José I. Lawyer and diplomat. Brother of Napoleon.

5º.- Bonaparte, Napoleón. Emperor of the French Empire (Empereur des Français).

6º.- Borbón y Parma, Fernando de. King of Spain, also known as King Fernando VII. (Is represented three (3) times in the painting).

7º.- Borbón y Parma, Fernando de. As prince, exiled in Valençay, France. (Is represented three (3) times in the painting).

8º.- Borbón y Parma, Fernando de. King of Spain also known as Fernando VII as a lonely widower which lasted from 1806 to 1816. (Is represented three (3) times in the painting).

9º.- Borbón y de Sajonia, Carlos de. King of Spain also known as Carlos IV.

10º.- Carvajal, José Miguel de. Duke of San Carlos. Principal butler of King Fernando VII in exile in Valencay, France and in the royal court of Madrid.

11º.- Cevallos, Pedro de. Minister of Spain at the service of Carlos IV, Fernando VII and of José I (Bonaparte).

12º.- Escóiquiz, Juan de. Canon and tutor to Prince Fernando and later served as advisor when Prince Fernando became King Fernando VII.

13º.- Godoy, Manuel. Prince of Peace. Prime Minister of the Borbon dynasty and favourite of King Carlos IV.

14º.- Guyot, Claude Étienne. General of the Empire. Served Napoleon during his campaign in Madrid in December 1808.

15º.- Izquierdo de Rivera y Lezaun, Eugenio. Banker, diplomat and admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte. NOTE: In the painting, this person could also be, instead: Martínez de Hervás, José. Marquis of Almenara. Minister of Spain who married his daughter to General Duroc.

16º.- Jordán de Urries, Pedro. Marquis of Ayerbe. Principal butler of Fernando VII during his exile in Valençay, France..

17º.- Malasaña, Manuela. Heroine of the “2 de Mayo”. A seamstress, was assassinated at 17 years old by the troops of Marshall Murat in the streets of Madrid for carrying a pair of scissors.

18º.- Martín Díez, Juan. “El Empecinado”. Military leader and guerrilla fighter in the War of Independence. Captain General of the army. Was hanged rather than executed by military firing squad, by order of Fernando VII.

19º.- Murat, Joachim Napoleón Murat. Grand Duke of Berg. Marshall of the Empire. He took Madrid in a bloody and fiery attack. Married to Carolina Bonaparte, and in the end, betrayed the Emperor.

20º.- Parma, María Luisa de. Queen consort of Spain. Married to King Carlos IV. Friend and informant of Napoleon.

21º.- Rey, Clara del. Heroine of the “2 de Mayo” in Madrid. Died defending the barracks of Monteleon.

22º.- Talleyrand, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgod. Prince de Benevento . Bishop, politician, diplomat and statesman. He served under five successive French governments.

23º.- Tudó, Josefa Francisca de Tudó y Catalán. “Pepita Tudó”. Princess of Bassano. Lover of Manuel Godoy. She had access to confidential information of the Court of Carlos IV. She is considered to have been the model for two of Francisco de Goya’s most famous paintings, the “Maja vestida” and the “Maja desnuda”.

24º.- A“Vélite” (Young soldier of the Napoleon guard) of the Cavalry of hunters and grenadiers.

NOTE: There are other personalities in the background of the painting.

In conclusion to this chapter, I might add that Goya, lover of peace and liberty, includes in this “pyramid”, all of the persons that he believes were responsible for the disaster of a civil war amongst Spaniards and Frenchmen that should have never taken place. This “pyramid” of characters is also a “bonfire” ready to be lit as part of the ceremonial conclusion of pilgrimage festivals! In Spanish, the word “Pyramid” or “Piramide” is curiously similar to “Bonfire” or “Pira.

Goya has no compassion with any of them. He ridicules them; he dresses them as puppets, buffoons, with imaginary clothing. He paints them with exaggeratedly bulging, astonished and enraptured eyes. He paints contorted, frightened, flabbergasted, atonic and confused faces. He paints their vociferous, aghast or simply closed mouths. In some cases, he simply hides their mouths. He paints their grotesque or exaggerated noses. And he paints real or invented hats and bonnets. Goya only respects the face of Napoleon, although still somewhat caricaturized, and that of another character, (to be revealed later) who are the only ones that he realistically paints, with a closed mouth, except for the carnival nose mask of the second character.

Goya does not paint anything randomly; every gesture is made with minute intent by the painter to perfectly caricaturize each one of the characters in the painting. He paints each one purposely and with meaning. A hidden mouth, for example, has graphic and historical meaning which will also be elaborated in a future chapter. Goya strips them of their capes and imperial coats. He strips them of their inherited or usurped titles of nobility and debases them to simple folk; those commoners that fought and died in the battles of that bloody war. Goya has no compassion with either the patsies or the so called visionaries that caused such horror, desolation and ruin.

The work is simply genius, made by a genius, a genius of a painter and of artistic expression, as is Francisco de Goya y Lucientes.

This is the second of a series of articles prepared by the researcher, Antonio Muñoz-Casayús related to his discoveries and observations of Francisco De Goya’s painting, “The Pilgrimage of San Isidro”.

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