Goya's Tapestries

A tour of the cathedral's tapestries, based on cartoons by Francisco de Goya.

The Tapestry Collection
The Cathedral Museum exhibits 12 pieces woven in the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Bárbara using Goya's cartoons, most of which are kept at the Prado Museum. The pieces on display were bequeathed by the canon and politician Pedro Acuña y Malvar when he died in 1814. Among other things, he became Secretary of State for Justice during the reign of Charles IV, and created an important collection of art in Madrid.

"The Cherry Seller" shows a woman selling cherries and 3 men in the process of buying them. The people that appear in the background of the scene in the cartoon have been omitted from the tapestry.

Among the tapestries bequeathed to the cathedral by Pedro Acuña were the 12 Goya pieces that are part of the art collections, and which are currently on display in a dedicated room in the museum.In his cartoons, Goya reflected the popular customs of Madrid life in the last third of the 18th century, such as the typical scene of a cherry seller depicted in this image.

The collection of tapestries comes from a set of cartoons that Charles III commissioned from the Royal Factory of Santa Bárbara between 1777 and 1780, to decorate various rooms in the Royal Palace of El Pardo.The tapestry "Boys Playing Soldiers" was woven for the lintel in the bedroom of the Prince and Princess of Asturias.

The legacy of Pedro Acuña was hugely important for the Cathedral Museum, as it provided Santiago Cathedral with a large collection of Goya tapestries.It is worth noting that no tapestry in the whole collection portrays religious themes. Instead, they incorporate "costumbrista" themes exploring local customs and "majo" traditions, for example in "The Maja and the Masked Men."

Goya probably based this cartoon on a farce or comedy in fashion at the time, or even perhaps on a real event that occurred around then that had piqued the painter's interest.

These tapestries used wool for the darker colors, and fine silk burlap for the lighter tones."Children with a Cart" depicts 4 children playing at soldiers, with 2 of them in the cart.

Goya's cartoons demonstrate the rich colors so characteristic of the artist, perfectly reflected in the tapestry "The Swing."

You can also observe his characteristic use of light and very personal "costumbrista" themes.

The collection of tapestries at Santiago Cathedral was, for years, kept in the cathedral's old tailor's workshop until they were exhibited on the cloister walls during the Corpus Christi festivities some time later."Majo with a Guitar" depicts a dandy playing and singing what is possibly a melancholy love song. The protagonist's loneliness is amplified here by the absence of any other characters.

When the Cathedral Museum was established in 1928, the balcony rooms, which used to house the tailor's workshop, were used for the permanent exhibition of part of the Cathedral's tapestry collection.The tapestry entitled "The Fountain" was presented on January 24, 1780 for the anteroom of the Prince and Princess of Asturias.

"Boy with a Bird" was also made for the anteroom of the Prince and Princess of Asturias. Four copies of it were woven.

This tapestry shows a boy sitting at the foot of a tree, playing with a bird. Again, the detail showcases Goya's rich use of color.

As well as giving him experience in serial works and abundant images of gender, Goya's career as a cartoonist led him to become well known at court and grow both professionally and socially. Five copies of "The Lumberjacks" were woven.

In 1780 he was admitted to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, and 6 years later was regarded as "The King's Painter," tasked primarily with painting cartoons for tapestries for royal use.

Traditionally, the central character has been identified as a self-portrait of the painter, who wanted to immortalize himself in his only bull-fighting themed cartoon.

The composition of "The Tobacco Guards" shows 5 guards, responsible for tobacco revenues, making a stop on their journey. Three copies were woven from this cartoon.

According to Sambricio, "The Tobacco Guards" is, without doubt, the highest quality canvas in this series, representing a breakthrough in Goya's style. Velázquez's influence can clearly be seen in the background landscape, identified as the Guadarrama mountains.

Goya's work as a painter of cartoons for tapestries was therefore very important, and this broad tour of the collection of Goya tapestries bequeathed by Pedro Acuña y Malvar is structured around that development.

It demonstrates clearly how the artist expanded his range by applying colors more decisively, using darker shades rich with nuances and, above all, seeking out strong contrasts of light and dark.

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