Although Francisco de Goya was an extremely prolific artist, he painted perhaps only a dozen still lifes, late in life. In Still Life with Golden Bream, he has captured the physical beauty of the fish while at the same time seeming to identify strongly with the animal's demise.
The fish appear to be piled on a grassy knoll near a beach, which Goya has deftly suggested by the foam of a wave breaking diagonally from lower right to upper left. The scene is illuminated by moonlight glinting across the wet, scaly bodies of the fish and reflected in their large, staring eyes.
Goya departs from traditional artistic depictions of dead animals, investing his still lifes with great pathos. Parallels can be drawn between Goya's representation of animals and his treatment of human corpses in his riveting series of prints Disasters of War, one of the greatest accusations against the horrors of war.