The Third of May 1808 is a painting completed in 1814 by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya, now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid. In the work, Goya sought to commemorate Spanish resistance to Napoleon’s armies during the occupation of 1808 in the Peninsular War. Along with its companion piece of the same size, The Second of May 1808 (or The Charge of the Mamelukes), it was commissioned by the provisional government of Spain at Goya’s suggestion.
Facts About Painting
HE THIRD OF MAY 1808 IS KNOWN BY SEVERAL NAMES.
There are variant titles, including The Shootings of May 3, The Third of May 1808 in Madrid, or The Executions. Sometimes named for the location on which it is staged, the painting has also been called The Shootings on the Príncipe Pío Hill. Its grandest title is The Third of May, 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid.
IT HAS A PREQUEL COMPANION PIECE.
Completed two months before its more iconic cousin, The Second of May 1808 depicts the actual day of revolt known as Dos de Mayo Uprising. While this work showed Spanish civilians in a moment of victory, The Third of May 1808 presented the French response the following day, when Napoleon’s soldiers slaughtered hundreds of Spaniards in one cruel, dark night.
THE USE OF THE LANTERN IS SUBVERSIVE.
Baroque artists famously used light to symbolize the divine, but in The Third of May 1808, a radiant lantern is the tool that allows the French soldiers to carry out their bloody business before the sun comes up.
IT’S BIGGER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK.
The Third of May 1808 measures in at 8 feet, 9 inches by 11 feet, 4 inches. The Second of May 1808 matches its size.
NOBODY KNOWS WHEN THE PUBLIC FIRST SAW THE THIRD OF MAY 1808.
Historians have found no references from 1814 that detail the painting’s debut. However, this gap in the historical record may have stemmed from Spain’s reigning king, Ferdinand VII, not being a fan of the work and its sentiment. The monarch had actually put a stop to plans to build a monument in commemoration of the uprising’s fallen.
THE THIRD OF MAY 1808 INSPIRED OTHER ACCLAIMED ARTISTS.
Both Edouard Manet’s Execution of Emperor Maximilian and Pablo Picasso’s Massacre in Korea show influences from Goya’s disturbing depiction of war. In 2006, this connection was celebrated with a special exhibition at the Prado.
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