Francisco de Goya

The Fates (Las Parcas)

The Fates (Las Parcas)
Datos Generales
Ca. 1820 - 1823
The Prado National Museum. Madrid, Madrid, Spain
123 x 266 cm
Técnica y soporte
Oil painting on plaster transferred to canvas
Reconocimiento de la autoría de Goya
Undisputed work
El Prado National Museum
Ficha: realización/revisión
27 Oct 2010 / 24 Aug 2022

See Leocadia.

Análisis artístico

This painting was located on the first floor of the house, on the left-hand wall. It is a large composition dominated by the main figures in a scene that seems to be taking place at night. The figures are superimposed on a primitive landscape. They represent the Fates, the Daughters of the Night who control the thread of human life. In this work they are shown floating on a cloud, accompanied by a man whose arms are held behind his back. Atropos can be identified as the figure on the right of the painting from the scissors she is holding: according to Arnaiz, she is making a rude gesture with her fingers which could be interpreted as the painter mocking death. Clotho, who is usually depicted spinning the thread of life, in this case holds a doll in her hands - perhaps as a sacrifice - which is attached to her right hand by a thread. In the background is Lachesis: she normally holds the thread of life, although here she is shown with an object in her hand which has been interpreted variously as a magnifying glass with which she examines the thread of life, a mirror symbolizing time and transience or a snake biting its tail, a symbol of eternity.

The lighting of the scene is striking, since it seems to be bathed in moonlight which picks out the objects carried by the Fates.

It has not been possible to find a global explanation for the scene; however, the identification of Atropos as the Fates by Brugada and Yriarte was very clear, and is the reason behind the title they gave to the painting. According to Bozal, the symbolic meaning of the Fates is altered by the changes Goya introduces in his representation, as well as by its relationship with the other Black Paintings.


The figure of Atropos is the one that underwent the most changes due to the intervention of Martínez Cubells: based on x-ray analysis, it is believed that he overpainted a tear in the paint in the area of that figure.

  • Pinturas Negras en la Exposición Universal de París
    Palacio del Trocadero
    from may 20th to November 10th 1878
  • Goya. 250 Aniversario
    Museo Nacional del Prado
    consultant editor Juan J. Luna. From March 29th to June 2nd 1996
  • YRIARTE, Charles
    Goya, sa vie, son œuvre
    ParísHenri Plon
    pp. 140-141
  • BERUETE Y MONET, Aureliano de
    Goya, pintor de retratos, t. I
    MadridBlass y Cía
  • GASSIER, Pierre y WILSON, Juliet
    Vie et ouvre de Francisco de Goya
    ParísOffice du livre
    pp. 327-329, cat. 1615
  • vol. I, p. 378, cat.708
  • MULLER, Priscilla
    Goya's Black Paintings: Truth and Reason in Light and Liberty
    New YorkHispanic Society of America
    p. 88-94
  • LUNA, Juan J. (Comisario)
    Goya. 250 Aniversario
    MadridMuseo del Prado
    p. 432
  • BOZAL, Valeriano
    Las pinturas negras de Goya, Alcobendas
    T.F. Editores
  • JUNQUERA, Paulina
    Las Pinturas Negras de Goya
    LondonScala Publishers Ltd.
    p. 82-83
Enlaces externos
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