The Third of May 1808 – Depiction of Great Pain!

Title: The Third of May 1808 (El tres de mayo de 1808 en Madrid)

Author: Francisco Goya (Fuendetodos, Spain, March 30, 1746 – Bordeaux, France, April 16, 1828)

Date: 1814

Genre: History Painting

Movement: Romanticism

Technique: Oil painting

Support: Canvas

Dimension: 349,3 cm x 776,6 cm (height x width)

Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid

We are in Spain for examining The Third of May 1808, which embraces all the war-related pain!

Feel the warm breeze of the Mediterranean lands! Vamos!

We feel content and vigorous about what we are going to see. We are heading to Museo Nacional del Prado as the other people flock here. Then, we entered the enormous room 064. When we approach The Third of May 1808, our content feeling becomes a deeply embedded sense.

The Third of May 1808 was painted by Francisco Goya in 1841.

When we interrogate its formal properties and later its subject matter, we think to ourselves: Is this telling a story from mythology or history? And what was the world like back then?


The war theme is old, like the term of art.

Artists who had never witnessed a real battle painted Traditional battle-related works like the war was noble and glorious. In this case, we can’t count Goya in the group of these artists because it would not be fair. 

Goya lived in taken capital of Spain, saw battlefields and executions, witnessed the Spanish Inquisition. His reaction found itself in art. For the first time, he rendered war vicious, dirty, wounded, and unfair.  

Goya’s painting glows up in truth. The cruel reality. 


The Painter Francisco de Goya by López Portaña, Vicente.

It was strange to consider that Goya’s first intention was to become a Rococo painter seeking success at the Royal court. 

After training in his hometown of Zaragoza, he moved to Madrid in 1774 and toiled his way up to court artist. For almost twenty years, he brushed conventionally pretty rococo portraits and countryside scenes. Then he got sick!

We don’t know what hit Goya in the winter of 1792–93. He heard buzzing in his ears, endured debilitating vertigo, and suffered from frustrating fainting fits and semi-blindness. His sickness has been attributed to various serious causes such as Ménière’s disease, botulism, polio, hepatitis; however, we don’t know why. Unfortunately, he was left entirely deaf, and his life would never be the same, nor his art! 


When it comes to war, it only ends if there is a winner and loser. Even though British, Portugues, and Spanish forces rout French, in this case, we can consider art as a winner with Goya’s Third of May.

By 1806, the French had managed dominance in mainland Europe. French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, held an idea to combat Britain by attacking its economy and decreed a comprehensive embargo against the British Empire.

Britain was abandoned from the coast of Russia and Spain, and much more. Most kings agreed with Napoleon due to the fear of him. But Portugal refused the embargo and continued to trade with its historic-ally, Britain. Therefore, Napoleon convinced King Carlos to let march 100.000 troops through Spain and invade Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. 

Meanwhile, there was the corrupted Spanish Bourbon royal family, and the king and crown prince loathed each other, Queen’s lover run the country, chief minister Manuel Goday. 

Napoleon turned his intention to Spain, even though they were allies earlier. Eventually, Napoleon concluded that an incompleteness governed Spain and the military force was way too weak. So he devised a plan to seize the country’s control. You can see his proclamation below.

“Spaniards! After long agony, your nation was perishing. I have seen your pain, and I am bringing you a remedy.”

The Peninsularar War in May 2, 1808 – Apr 17, 1814.

Napoleon guarded Spain against the British on some flimsy pretext by his troops taking up strategic positions around Spain, but he actually carried out the spirit of occupying Madrid. Naturally, the Spaniards considered this event a way of disgrace, and Manual Godoy, nearly lynched, as the responsible. Thus, Napoleon invited the Spanish family and Godoy to French under his custody. The bourbons obligingly packed their bags. Then Napoleon announced he was giving the crown to his brother Joseph.


Napoleon sent 50.000 soldiers and Marshal Murat to Madrid to restore the order. However, on May 2, Madrileños rose against Murat’s troops. This scene became an unforgettable remark known as the Dos de Mayo by Goya. Goya depicted the Spanish citizens were attacking the Mamelukes’ guards of Napoleon’s. Tons of Spaniards opposed.

The Second of May 1808 was created by Francisco Goya in 1814.

On May 3, the French rounded up and massacred Spanish freedom fighters. Violence broke out across the city, and blood painted Madrid streets horribly. Eventually, Spanish people defeated the French, and in 1814 Fernando returned in triumph to Madrid. (Carlos had died during the war.)

Goya sought a commission to commemorate the events of May 2–3. And the story of The Third of May 1808, which was immortalized by Goya, started accordingly. Goya completed The Third of May in 1814–15. This work of art became Goya’s celebration of the Spanish spirit. 


Goya’s The Third of May 1808 (El tres de mayo de Madrid), in Madrid is acclaimed as one of the great paintings of all time and has even been called the world’s first modern painting. The second thing the artist almost divided the canvas into dark and light zones. 

He drow our eyes to the man in the middle in whites with hands outstretched whose French soldiers are about shot. Those guns are pointing at him.

Goya asked our eyes to let down the gunman by the hill’s horizon, and then our eyes shot back to the left, to the bright white shirt.

A line of French soldiers stand aiming their rifles at a cluster of Spanish partisans to the right, in front of the man in the center focus, figures who have just been murdered on the ground. To the man left is the figure holding his head who is next to a fire.


A man in white clothes is rising his hands up in despair, waiting to be shot.

The Spaniards, grouped on the left, hide their eyes, clench their hands, or stare at their executioners in despair; the one in the center throws open his arms and faces the French with wide-eyed defiance. Nobody has ever painted anything like this scene. Yes, you can see influences—the arms-out position of the central Spaniard evokes the crucified Christ, for example—but never before had art been so honest about war.

Did they hang the paintings in a prominent place to serve as a constant reminder of the cost of conflict? Nope. Fernando was unimpressed, and the paintings dropped out of the records. They weren’t even displayed until 1872. 


The detail of receding diagonal on the soldiers lined up their back towards us in The Third of May 1808.

When you look deeply at the French soldiers, Goya utilizes a diagonal line that appears to recede into space by laying together them. In addition, he uses light to create depth in the painting; the foreground is brighter, the most glorious components are forward; become darker on the soldiers are lined up with their back towards us. Finally, Goya uses a scale; therefore, farther buildings are minor than men at the forefront.

Moreover, Goya prefers loads of earth tones such as browns and golds. The reduction of color in this painting assists in reinforcing the radical contrast between light and darkness.


It is the depiction of great pain, one of the excellent examples of romanticism. The painting turned from an abstract idea to an emotional response when emotional expression came to the fore.

Here we finish by examining The Third of May 1808, an enormous large oil painting, Goya’s ambition for the artworks awaits your visit. Letting you with his quotes;

” The sleep of reason brings forth monsters”

Francisco Goya

Want to read about another great painting of war. Check out the great master Pablo Picasso’s Guernica in here.

Last but not least, if you are into art, we will have a blast seeing you here. I hope every art-related thing will find you; see you in our following review 🙂

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