Dining with Goya in the Villa of the Deaf Man

By | 1 May 2019

Francisco de Goya, Saturno Devorando a Uno de Sus Niños, 1819-1823,
Museo del Prado, Madrid.

I’m dining with Goya in Quinta del Sordo, a villa
by the Manzanares he bought from a deaf man.
He has no reason to change its name. Evening’s

gloom invades the room. The pinturas Negras
loom from fitful shadows cast by frugal flames
from a pair of candles. We eat fabada assailed

by visual screams – wretchedness, hopelessness,
loneliness, old age and death ungraced by puny
promises of salvation’s solace. Angels of mercy

do not ply Goya’s glowering firmaments. From
my chair I stare at two peasants clubbing each
other to pulp in a bog. If Goya glances up he’ll

watch an ugly mad-eyed old Titan, who fears his
children will usurp his powers, rip the head from
his naked child with his teeth. I know the moral

of the myth: age is devouring youth until, one day,
a child evades the savage maw, grows to maturity
and returns boiling for retribution. I shout at Goya,

‘Francisco, is this to be our fate?’ (He won’t reply
if I use titles or formalities.) I bellow my question
four or five times. Finally, he raises his left hand

palm exposed. His right grips a spoon dripping
fabada. ‘You think I paint what I don’t believe?’
he says. ‘Which barrio of hell do you spring from?’

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