Lunatic Asylum

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Goya, Lunatic Asylum, 1812-1819


When Ferdinand VII came in to power, Goya was influenced for the first time to paint in a manner that reflected his view on politics in Spain. Goya was very disapproving of the chaos that Ferdinand's rule caused, and created a collection that consisted of groups running wild as a result of Spain's ruler. In a collection of paintings from the early 1800s, Goya painted groups of people in a variety of situations, overtaken by madness, including this one that takes place in a madhouse. Goya was so unhappy with Ferdinand, that he even painted a picture of a statue, representing Spain, looking down at Ferdinand disapprovingly.

So what was it about Ferdinand that pushed Goya's buttons so much? Well, when Ferdinand came into power, he was pressured to change the structure of the government. Under Napoleon, the power of the government was shared between 3 tiers of people, but Ferdinand felt that in order to gain the people's respect, he needed ultimate power. To do so, Ferdinand got rid of the Constitution and made a mess of the country, replacing religious leaders and others of power quite regularly. In 1820, this lead to a revolt lead by those who wanted the country to return to its previous government, using the old Constitution.
Until the time of the revolution, however, many were outraged by the
lack of order Ferdinand seemed to have in the country.

The logistics of Lunatic Asylum give an air of crazy, including the claustrophobic walls, and the limited amount of lighting. The arched ceiling pushes the space downward, and the high window allows limited access to the outside world. The space almost resembles an underground tunnel, making the people look like rats in a sewer. The movement of the people also adds to this non-human effect. Not only do some of the characters crawl on the floor in a daze, but most are also nude, creating a less-than-civilized group. Goya would argue that had it not been for Ferdinand's poor ruling style, this chaos would not have existed, and that civilization as Spain had known it would never have disappeared.

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