Francisco de Goya

Datos Generales
1793 - 1794
Private collection
43.2 x 32 cm
Técnica y soporte
Oil on tin
Reconocimiento de la autoría de Goya
Undisputed work
Private collection
Ficha: realización/revisión
29 Apr 2010 / 14 Apr 2021
Análisis artístico

A Shipwreck is one of the works that Goya painted during his stay in Cádiz. In these paintings he was able to give free rein to his creativity, liberated from the demands which commissioned works entailed (see rec. no.).

In the background of the picture we can make out the hull of a boat smashed against the rocks by the storm that we see moving away in the form of a black storm cloud. In its wake it has left several wounded men and women, who are desperately clinging on to the rocks in the foreground. In the centre of the scene a bare-breasted woman raises her arms to heaven and cries out for help, as if in prayer. Here, however, the human figures occupy a distant second place, dwarfed by the imposing presence of the furious, uncontrollable forces of nature.

It is likely that Goya took his inspiration for these ragged, semi-naked figures from works of antiquity, from the tombs and classical fountains that he would have seen in Madrid. He may even have used the drawing on page 31a of his Italian Sketchbook, in which we see Abel being brutally murdered by his brother Cain, and adopting a posture which is reminiscent of the body stretched out on the rock here in A Shipwreck.

Despite the small dimensions of this work, Goya has been able to condense here the pain and desolation caused by such a disaster. We do not know whether this is a depiction of a real event which the painter had heard about or if was dealing with this theme more generically, meaning that the elements in this scene could be extrapolated out to apply to other, similar disasters.

Thanks to the widespread interest in Edmund Burke's theory on the sublime (A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, 1757), the last third of the 18th century saw an interesting shift in the way natural disasters were treated in art. Following the publication of Burke's treatise, disasters became part of the aesthetic category of the sublime as events which transcend our senses and generate within us a mixture of both terror and fascination. It is possible that Goya based this work on Burke's writings, which he could have discovered during the time he spent at the home of his friend Sebastián Martínez, who was very involved with the world of English culture.

It is also likely that, during his trip to Italy, Goya would have seen paintings by Claude Joseph Vernet (Avignon, 1714- Paris, 1789), who devoted much of his artistic career to representing shipwrecks.

For more information, see Strolling Player.

  • Pinturas de Goya
    Museo Nacional del Prado
    consultant editor Fernando Álvarez de Sotomayor. From April to May 1928
  • Goya en las colecciones madrileñas
    Museo Nacional del Prado
    consultant editor Enrique Lafuente Ferrari. From April 19th to June 20th 1983
  • Goya nelle collezioni private di Spagne
    Villa Favorita
    consultant editor Marta Medina. From June 15th to October 15th 1986
  • Goya
    La Lonja, Torreón Fortea y Museo Pablo Gargallo
    consultant editor Julián Gállego
  • 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's Realism
    Statens Museum for Kunst
    from February 11th to May 7th 2000
  • 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 e Italia
    Museo de Zaragoza
    organized by the Fundación Goya en Aragóna, consultant editor Joan Sureda Pons. From June 1st to September 15th 2008
  • Goya: Order and disorder
    Museum of Fine Arts
  • L'œuvre peint de Goya. 4 vols
    p. 172, cat. 126
  • GASSIER, Pierre y WILSON, Juliet
    Vie et ouvre de Francisco de Goya
    ParísOffice du livre
    p. 169, cat. 328
  • vol. I, p. 293, cat. 346
  • ANGELIS, Rita de
    L’opera pittorica completa di Goya
    p. 106, cat. 280
  • José Camón Aznar
    Francisco de Goya, 4 vols.
    ZaragozaCaja de Ahorros de Zaragoza, Aragón y Rioja
    vol. II, p. 110
  • Alfredo de Paz
    Goya. Arte e condizione umana
    NaplesLiguori editore
    il. 65
  • Nigel (comisario) Glendinning
    La década de los Caprichos. Retratos 1792-1804
    MadridReal Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando
    pp. 72 y 73, cat. 22
  • WILSON-BAREU, Juliet
    Goya. El capricho y la invención. Cuadros de gabinete, bocetos y miniaturas
    MadridMuseo del Prado
    pp. 200, 201, 202, 203 y 207 (il.), cat.
  • SUREDA PONS, Joan (comisario)
    Goya e Italia, 2 vols.
    ZaragozaFundación Goya en Aragón y Turner
    Vol. I, p. 177 (il.), Vol. II, p. 289, c
  • Joan Sureda Pons
    Los mundos de Goya (1746-1828)
    pp. 159, 239, il. 95
Enlaces externos
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