Goya works restored for Madrid uprising anniversary

MADRID (Reuters Life!) - Two of Spanish artist Francisco Goya’s most famous paintings have been restored in time for an exhibition to mark the bicentennial of the uprising against Napoleonic troops that they depicted.

People sit in front of a banner announcing an exhibition by Spanish legendary artist Francisco Goya at Madrid's El Prado museum in Madrid April 15, 2008. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

“The Third of May 1808,” showing a man with outstretched arms facing a French firing squad, was damaged in a road accident during transit to Barcelona to escape bombing during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War.

Also restored is the “Second of May 1808”, also known as “The Charge of the Mamelukes”, which shows soldiers of French Emperor Napoleon clashing with a rioting mob in Madrid.

The two paintings will form the centerpiece of more than 200 of Goya’s works covering 25 years of his life -- beginning in 1794 -- and gathered from several countries for an exhibition which opened on Tuesday at Madrid’s El Prado museum.

“It is the diary of the artist at the turn of a century during a turbulent period of Spain’s history,” museum curator Miguel Zugaza told journalists.

“He (Goya) is an illustrious artist steeped in reason who witnessed the unexpected victory of unreason and violence.”

Goya (1746-1826) lived in Madrid as it was occupied by French troops at the beginning of what English speakers call “The Peninsular War”, but Spaniards refer to as “The War of Independence”.

He was horrified by the spontaneous and bloody uprising which spread throughout the city on May 2, 1808, and the bloody reprisals including mass shootings the following dawn.

The site of the only army barracks to support the revolt is now named “May the Second Square” (Plaza Dos de Mayo), and many streets in Madrid commemorate the uprising.

The exhibition is one of several events organized in Madrid to coincide with the anniversary in a city where bookshops have for months had stands dedicated to the revolt.

Spanish governing circles at the time welcomed French actions to put down what they saw as an unruly mob but the revolt has gone down in history as the heroic beginning of a long fight to rid Spain of invaders.

The exhibition does not just depict the war years, however, but also charts Goya’s transition from a successful court painter to a more individual and innovative artist who in later years satirized human ignorance and social misery.

After the 1808-14 war, Goya produced mainly etchings and drawings ranging from a series on bullfighting to others on “foolish acts” and “disasters”. He also depicted the religious repression of the Inquisition, cheating and madness.

The exhibition concludes with “The Last Communion of Saint Joseph of Calasanz”, painted in 1819, the year in which Goya fell ill and The Prado museum was opened.

Reporting by Teresa Larraz; Writing by Martin Roberts; Editing by Paul Casciato