Francisco de Goya

The Knife Grinder (El afilador)

The Knife Grinder (El afilador)
Datos Generales
Ca. 1808 - 1812
Szépmüvészeti Muzeum. Budapest, Budapest, Hungary
68 x 50.5 cm
Técnica y soporte
Oil on canvas
Reconocimiento de la autoría de Goya
Documented work
Szépmüvészeti Muzeum Budapest
Ficha: realización/revisión
25 Apr 2010 / 14 Apr 2021

See The Water Carrier.

Análisis artístico

The knife grinder is shown in the middle of his task. He is bending over, leaning towards the wheel to place the knife on it, while his right foot rests on the barrow. The movement of the wheel and the heat it gives off as it spins round quickly is expressed in the red brushstrokes close to the axel. A thin trickle of water pours onto the wheel to counteract this heat. The pose of the figure is reminiscent of the Belvedere Torso, which Goya drew in the pages of the Italian Notebook. The grinder is aware of the viewer, and his head is raised, looking directly at us, as if we had interrupted him at his work when he is too busy to stop. His face reveals the exhausting nature of his job. He is wearing a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, some undone buttons revealing his bare chest. The setting for this scene is not defined, with a neutral, flat background offering no depth whatsoever.

This work and its companion painting, The Water Carrier, have been interpreted as paying tribute to the anonymous heroes of the war against Napoleon. In this case, the knife grinder would be in charge of sharpening the combatants' knives, sometimes the only weapons they had available to them. Goya knew how to reflect the inequality of the two sides, and in his war imagery there are numerous representations of Spanish fighters defending themselves with stones, pieces of wood, and, above all, knives.

  • Goya and his times
    The Royal Academy of Arts
    cat. 66
  • Spanyol Mesterk
    Szépm?vészeti Múzeum
  • Goya. El Capricho y la Invención. Cuadros de gabinete, bocetos y miniaturas
    Museo Nacional del Prado
    from November 18th 1993 to February 15th 1994. Exhibited also at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, March 18th to June 12th 1994 and The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, July 16th to October 16th 1994, consultant editors Manuela B. Mena Marqués and Juliet Wilson-Bareau
  • Goya y el espíritu de la Ilustración
    Museo Nacional del Prado
    from October 6th to December 18th 1988. Exhibited also at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January 18th to March 26th 1989; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York, May 9th to July 16th 1989, Madrid curator Manuela B. Mena Marqués, scientific directors Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez and Eleanor A. Sayre
  • Goya: Prophet der Moderne
    Alte Nationalgalerie
    from July 13th to October 3th 2005. Exhibitied also at the Kunsthistorischemuseum, Vienna, October 18th 2005 to January 8th 2006, consultant editor Manuela B. Mena Marqués
  • Goya en tiempos de guerra
    Museo Nacional del Prado
    consultant editor Manuela B. Mena Marqués, from April 14th to July 13th 2008
  • Goya e il Mondo Moderno
    Palazzo Reale
    organized by SEACEX, Palazzo Reale and Fundación Goya en Aragón, consultant editors Valeriano Bozal and Concepción Lomba Serrano. From March 17th to June 27th 2010
  • L'œuvre peint de Goya. 4 vols
    vol. I, p. 273, cat. 248
  • vol. I, p. 350, cat. 580
  • GASSIER, Pierre y WILSON, Juliet
    Vie et ouvre de Francisco de Goya
    ParísOffice du livre
    pp. 256, 266, cat. 964 y p. 245 (il.)
  • ANGELIS, Rita de
    L’opera pittorica completa di Goya
    p. 122, cat. 482
  • José Camón Aznar
    Francisco de Goya, 4 vols.
    ZaragozaCaja de Ahorros de Zaragoza, Aragón y Rioja
    vol. III, p. 199 y vol. IV, p. 245 (il.)
  • MENA, Manuela B. (comisaria) and PÉREZ SÁNCHEZ, Alfonso E. y SAYRE, Eleanor A. (directores)
    Goya y el espíritu de la Ilustración
    MadridMuseo del Prado
    pp. 260-263, cat. 68 y p. 262 (il.)
  • WILSON-BAREU, Juliet
    Goya. El capricho y la invención. Cuadros de gabinete, bocetos y miniaturas
    MadridMuseo del Prado
    pp. 308-310, cat. 92 y p. 309 (il.)
  • Goya en tiempos de guerra
    MadridMuseo Nacional del Prado
    pp. 256-258, cat. 68 y p. 259 (il.)
Enlaces externos
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