Francisco de Goya, Two Women and a Man (Dos mujeres y un hombre)

Museo del Prado, Madrid

Date: 1820 - 1823
Technique: Mixed technique on wall, 125 x 66 cm

The posture and gestures of the man and both women have always given rise to much comment as well as diverse and unsatisfactory interpretations. Nowdays it is generally held that the subject is masturbation: the man is masturbating and the two women looking on are laughing at him (or with him). However, the painting makes no moralizing comment at all.

It is possible that the three figures are in some kond of interior space, but it might also be out-of-doors, maybe even in the street. Goya is imprecise in this respect. The light is concentrated on the man's arm and elbow, his white shirt and part of the lap of the woman immediately behind him. Shadow engulfs the scene as we move away from the lighted focal point. (Valeriano Bozal, Goya-Black Paintings)


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