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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:30

Goya, The Family of Charles IV

Video transcript

(piano music playing) Steven: We're in the Prado in Madrid and we're looking at a large canvas by Francisco Goya. It's the The Family of Charles IV. There's a direct reference to Velázquez's Las Meninas. We can see the artist actually, a self-portrait, a bit more in shadow than Velázquez painted himself, behind a large canvas, pretty much at the same angle as one found in Las Meninas and of course, the royal family are right before us. Although in this case, the king and queen are here not as a reflection in a mirror, but directly before us. Beth: I think that 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. Steven: As opposed to a more idealized, more youthful figure and I think that Goya is doing something quite extraordinary by in a sense pushing those boundaries and the royal family is allowing him to, but while there is a kind of particularity to the faces and that 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 freeze of bodies is spectacular, the sense of the ornament, the sense of the military medals. Beth: Of the gold and the silver sort of glittering in the light. You can catch the glistening jewelry if your eye just wanders across the canvas. Steven: And Goya has rendered it just brilliantly. Beth: Yeah, very, very loosely in a very ventrally way, that's also very reminiscent of Velázquez. Steven: Now, it's interesting that the royal family is looking in a sense back to Velázquez in this portrait, because this is the time that's really Beth: It is. Spain is in a kind of a 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, maintain their rule and in fact, this family would not be able to. Beth: No, not at all. Fernando, who we see on the left in blue, actually, collude with Napolean and Napolean's invasion of Spain and Napolean would 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 human and ... and many of them do and it's hard not to see that enlightenment thinking in Goya's mind. We know, in fact, that he was symphathetic with the enlightenment and the critique of the monarchy. Steven: 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 Velazquez. 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. (piano music playing)