The Third of May 1808

7:00 AM

Goya, The Third of May 1808, 1814

Honestly, the part of this piece that truly gets to me is the building in the background. This horrific scene occurs just around the hill Príncipe Pío, one of several places where executions like this happened, very close to what seems to be a small village. The horrors of war hide in plain sight, it seems. Between the hill and those buildings, barely distinguishable, is a mass of bodies and torches. Maybe they are onlookers, maybe they are more captives and soldiers, but clearly more people are coming to this spot; a spot which seems to have only one purpose.

The strong, straight line of French soldiers directly contrasts the chaotic mess of their targets. Each rifle points straight forward, their pointed ends looking like teeth ready to devour. On the other end, the group of captives cover their eyes and face towards the one man brave enough to stand tall in the face of these soldiers. These captives are dressed in dark garb, not uniform at all, some lying dead on the blood-stained ground. Only this one man, dressed in glowing white and yellow, stands just as tall as those ready to kill him. His arms stretch open in a gesture clearly referencing the crucified Christ, opening himself to his fate.

Illuminating the scene is the huge lantern in the middle. Its light spreads to each captive, but engulfs the soldiers in shadow. These soldiers are faceless and uniform, their cruelty stretching to the ends of their guns, while the illuminated faces of the rebels are brutally emotional, their fear almost palpable. But the beautiful aspect of this piece, one Goya created so artfully, is how reactionary it is for the viewer. Immediately, I felt horrified and sympathetic. But, after looking upon the martyred rebels and those about to join them, I felt respect for those captives sacrificing their lives for their cause. Goya artfully mixes historical fact with dramatic effect into one horrific event. He makes it all seem far too real.

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