The Parasol is a 1777 Rococo painting by Spanish artist Francisco Goya. It is located in the El Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.
Analysis of Goya’s The Parasol
The Parasol, by Spanish court painter Francisco Goya (1746-1828) was commissioned by the future King Charles IV and Maria Luisa of Parma, in 1777 for their dining room in the Royal Palace of El Pardo in Madrid.
As such, this painting of oil on linen depicts a scene of leisure in which the seated lady is shielded from the bluster of an upcoming storm, as the clouds in the upper left show. Her attendant’s dress is of the majo or poorer class. The lady cheerfully looks out at the viewer with a sleeping cat on her lap. Goya’s choice of coloring rhymes with the overall mood of gaiety with golds and light blues.
Goya was an official court painter to the Spanish Crown from 1786 and dedicated his time to creating works for the various Royal Palaces.
The Parasol (c. 1777) belongs to Francisco Goya’s series of tapestries (oils on linen) created by the queen’s commission for the Royal Palace of El Pardo in Madrid.
This so-called cartoon (from the Spanish cartón) on tapestry shows a young couple. Both of them are dressed according to particular fashions of the age. She is attired in the French style, with colorful silks which dominate the sky-blue shirt with the large frilly bow on the chest and the broad, gold-colored dress below. In her left hand, she holds a fan. He, instead, is dressed like a majo, a peasant, or a poor commoner, with clothes that are in fact good quality and carefully picked.
It is the fashion of majismo; the word has an important recurrence in Goya’s oeuvre in the Maja vestida/Maja desnuda pair (1800-1805). The young man — likely the gentlewoman’s chaperone — is holding a parasol to protect the young lady from the sun, although the wind, too, appears to have picked up behind them. The wall beside which she has chosen to sit may in fact be what screens her from the onslaught of the wind and makes the use of a parasol sensible (in strong wind, it would be unhandy to hold above the lady’s head, if it would not sooner fly off or break). Even as we intuit that a storm may be in the offing, we appreciate the warmth conjured up by the cheerfulness of this softly beautiful pair.
The warm hues of their dress, supported by the radiant light in the right-hand section of the panel, concur with this impression of peaceful contentment. And that is precisely what the Queen Maria Luisa of Parma had envisioned for these decorative tapestries intended for her dining room.
In 1770s Spain, the fashion for rococo had begun to vie with the new fashion for the Neoclassical. The well-structured set of elements in this cartoon — wall, parasol and fan, lady, young man and dog, forest — is conceptually classicist. The lady, with the help of her broad dress and thanks to the outstretching of her left hand, creates an almost perfect equilateral triangle. Her face is the focal point of the composition.
Francisco Goya and his work in the Spanish court
Francisco Goya was a renowned Spanish painter and printmaker who is widely considered one of the most important artists of his time. He was born on March 30, 1746, in Fuendetodos, Spain, and died on April 16, 1828, in Bordeaux, France. Goya’s artistic career spanned several decades, and he worked under the patronage of Spanish royalty, including King Charles III, King Charles IV, and King Ferdinand VII.
Goya’s association with the Spanish court began in 1774 when he was appointed as a painter to the royal court. He initially worked on decorative projects, creating tapestry cartoons (designs for tapestries) for the Royal Tapestry Factory in Madrid. These early works showcased his skill in depicting scenes of everyday life and the rural landscapes of Spain.
Over time, Goya’s reputation as a court painter grew, and he gained favor with the royal family. In 1786, he was appointed as a court painter to King Charles III, and later, in 1789, he became the court painter to King Charles IV. During this period, Goya produced numerous portraits of the royal family, including the king and queen, as well as their children and other members of the Spanish aristocracy.
Goya’s portraits of the Spanish court were characterized by a keen observational skill and an ability to capture the personalities of his subjects. He depicted the royal family in a more informal and naturalistic manner than was typical of court portraiture at the time, often emphasizing their humanity and individuality. This departure from traditional court painting earned him praise and recognition as an innovative artist.
However, Goya’s career took a dramatic turn with the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars and the subsequent invasion of Spain by French forces in 1808. He continued to serve as a court painter under the French-appointed King Joseph Bonaparte, but the atrocities and horrors of war deeply affected him. Goya’s later works, such as “The Disasters of War” and “The Third of May 1808,” depicted the brutal realities of the conflict and reflected his disillusionment with the monarchy and the ravages of war.
Following the restoration of Spanish rule, Goya’s relationship with the court deteriorated, and he eventually withdrew from courtly life. In his later years, he produced a series of haunting and introspective works known as the “Black Paintings.” These dark and enigmatic paintings, such as “Saturn Devouring His Son” and “Witches’ Sabbath,” revealed the artist’s inner turmoil and reflected his disillusionment with humanity.
Francisco Goya’s work in the Spanish court spanned several decades, during which he produced portraits of the royal family and other members of the aristocracy. His portrayal of the court departed from traditional conventions and emphasized the individuality of his subjects. However, the upheavals of war and his own personal disillusionment led him to create darker and more introspective works in his later years. Goya’s artistic contributions to the Spanish court and his subsequent exploration of human nature have secured his place as one of the most important figures in Western art history.