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Goya, The Family of Charles IV

Video transcript

we're in the Prado in Madrid and we're looking at a large canvas by Francisco Goya it's the family of Charles the fourth there's a direct reference to Velasquez as las meninas we can see the artist actually a self-portrait a bit more in shadow than Velasquez painting himself behind a large canvas pretty much at the same angle as one found in Las Meninas and of course the royal family arrayed before us although in this case the king and queen are here not as a reflection in a mirror but directly before us I think that this strikes us today as unflattering I think we're much more used to royal portraits that have a kind of idealism to it and here we have a range of that some of the figures look more ideal in their poses and their faces than others but there's certainly a way that the Queen herself looks very much I think the way that she really looked and even the king to some extent as opposed to a more idealized more youthful figure and I think that going is doing something quite extraordinary but in sense pushing those boundaries and the royal family is allowing him to but while there is a kind of particularity to the faces a kind of psychological depth to each of the faces and a striking beauty in terms of the representation of the children the costume across this frieze of bodies is spectacular the sense of the ornament the sense of the military the gold and the silver sort of glittering and the light you can catch the glistening jewelry if your eye just wanders across the canvas and go ahead has rendered it just brilliantly yeah very very loosely in a very painterly way that's also very reminiscent of Velazquez now it's interesting that the royal family is looking and it sends back to Velazquez in this portrait because this is a time that's really quite different this is Charles the fourth not Phillip before Spain is in a kind of crisis at this moment you know the French Revolution has taken place the royal families across Europe are wondering whether or not they're going to be able to maintain order maintaining their rule and in fact this family would not be able to no not at all at Fernando who we see on the left in blue actually collude with Napoleon in Napoleon's invasion of Spain and Napoleon will put his own brother on the throne of Spain very soon so this is a royal family that doesn't have much longer to live in this way and it's hard not to read the Enlightenment in a different way that in the modern world we look upon royal families we don't see them as having that kind of divine right and kind of royal lineage and a bloodline that makes them different from us in a way they look very you minute and many of them do and it's hard not to see that enlightenment thinking in boys why we know in fact that he was sympathetic with the enlight the critique of the monarchy there certainly is a kind of informality that almost feels a bit like disarray in the composition of the figures different from the informality that one finds in the velasquez but again I think it's interesting that Goya and the royal family are both looking back to that period of stability and in the sense trying to recapture that at a moment when everybody I think is cognizant that Spain is at the threshold of a moment when there may be significant change you