The “Third of May 1808” piece was painted by Francisco Goya y Lucientes. He was a great representative of the late 18th and early 19th Spanish painting art. This painting depicts the Madrid rebels against the French occupying forces. The picture itself represents the right side of the diptych, where the left side is the painting named “The Second of May, 1808 (The Charge of the Mamelukes)”.


The work on the canvas was started since Goya received the funds for this project in 1814. This painting is recognized as one of the powerful and revolutionary pieces of art during the 19th century in Spain. It was a painting that went against the usual paintings of that time. Including Baroque and Neoclassical paintings. There were victims, revolt, and suppression, but no heroes and braveries.

The influence of this painting on the other artists was significant. For example, Jacques-Louis David, in his painting “The Death of Marat” (1793, Brussels), depicted the fallen hero. Edouard Manet was an artist, who used elements of Goyas’ style in his paintings and made an impact on him being recognized. He showed The Execution of Emperor Maximilian (1967-1969), where method forwarded by expressionism in “The Third of May 1808” was finally recognized as a revolutionary masterpiece. The fame of this painting has grown even more during the 20th century along with such paintings as Massacre in Korea (1951, Musee National Picasso, Paris) by Pablo Picasso. It was known as an anti-war, expressionist symbol.

The Second of May 1808” shows the chaos that took place in Madrid during attacks on the French soldiers, while “The Third of May 1808” depicts the tragic consequences of this uprising. More accurately, the moment when French commander Marshal Murat gave a command to shoot the leaders of the rebel. As a result of the revolt, eighty peasants were gathered together and executed during the pre-dawn hours of May third. Despite the overwhelming defeat of the revolt, the Spanish people were not daunted. In the countryside, during the next six years, the first guerilla warfare was waged. Eventually, Napoleon and his troops were forced from Spain, but with them left their liberal reforms. The Peninsular war was a conflict between Napoleonic France and allied forces of Spain, Britain, and Portugal. War started when Spanish and French forces invaded Portugal. Later, French forces went against Spain, their only ally at the time. Causes of the Spanish invasion included Napoleon’s desire for colonial expansion and the fact that Spain was ruled by Charles IV who belonged to Bourbon dynasty and Napoleon was an avowed enemy of the Bourbons.

Through his painting, Goya gives a message that the rebels are martyrs, showing a protester who was crucified. Also, he provides a message that the insurgency was useless and has not achieved its goal. He states that there is no moral and meaning that human lives would be sacrificed to save another one or accomplish a particular purpose. This was a ground-breaking and modern message that Goya sent through his painting. Goya realized that the new Spanish king, Ferdinand VII, was more dictatorial than previous king Joseph I.

Goya has made a powerful anti-war statement in his painting. However, he is not only criticizing countries that are involved in the war but also saying to his viewers that human beings standing opposite to each other should look after being violent to each other.

The Third of May 1808 painting.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org