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Goya's Self-Portrait with Dr. Arrieta

Goya painted this portrait of King Charles IV of Spain and his family. Charles IV was the second of three kings Goya served.
Francisco de Goya, Charles IV of Spain and His Family, 1800-1801, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Goya did not hesitate to include unflattering details in his portraits. Here he shows his own flabby skin and feverish expression.


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Painter to the king

Francisco de Goya was one of Spain’s most famous painters. He got his start creating designs for tapestries to decorate the walls of royal palaces. Before long, he was named painter to the king. He served three rulers, painting many portraits of the royal family and other people he met at court.

Goya was known for the honesty of his portraits. He did not hesitate to show a person’s sags and wrinkles, even when he was painting the king. His careful observations also revealed a sitter’s personality and emotional life—not always a flattering view. But as you can see here, he applied the same honesty to himself.

When he was seventy-three, Goya retired to a small house outside Madrid. Not long after that he fell seriously ill, and when he recovered he painted this picture. He lived for another eight years.

The words across the bottom of this picture, written in Spanish, say, “Goya gives thanks to his friend Arrieta for the expert care with which he saved his life from an acute and dangerous illness which he suffered at the close of the year 1819 when he was seventy-three years old. He painted it in 1820.”
December 2006