Francisco de Goya, The Cudgel Fight (Duelo a garrotazos)

Museo del Prado, Madrid

Date: 1820 - 1823
Technique: Mixed technique on wall, 125 x 261 cm

This is one of the best known and most widely published of all the Black Paintings. It represents a brutal fight to the death in which the two duellists are buried up to the knee as they bash away at each other, without any hope of escaping. There is no room for doubt as to what is going on in this scene, but no one would interpret it anecdotally. It is perceived as a kind of allegorical reflection on the violence of Spanish life in Goya's time, which was riddled with confrontations, and even the age-old congenital violence of Spanish life which is characterized by our strong urge to fratricide.

The viewer may interpret this scene in its broader sense or in a more limited one, but whichever approach he chooses, he surely can never forget the tragic drama of the image, the inexorability of the duellists' fate, or the extreme violence expressed with such simplicity. (Valeriano Bozal, Goya-Black Paintings)


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