The Third of May,
by Francisco de Goya
Oil on canvas
260 x 345 cm
Prado Museum, Madrid
Goya painted this work on his own initiative six years after the dramatic event it depicts: the execution of the Madrid prisoners who had revolted against Napoleon Bonaparte's government the previous day, thus sparking the War of Independence.
Due to its composition and style, however, the painting, transcended the historical event and its patriotic homage to become a universal indictment of human irrationality, and was later very influential.
Cruelty is here embodied in the group of soldiers as a blind and anonymous force able to mechanically annihilate the individuality of the group of victims, who are much more clearly depicted.
This and other later works, especially the so-called "Black Paintings"
, make Goya the great precursor of expressionism in painting.