Goya’s Portrait of General Nicolas Guye (1810)

We are not alone. John Ciofalo, a Goya scholar, has argued that a number of Goya's scenes in The Disasters of War depict the inside of his mind behind the eyes. I explained his insight in the entry titled Goya's Disasters of War, and again in Goya's Eyes. It may be worth reading those two entries after - or even before - this one.

How does Goya turn this portrait of General Nicolas Guye, the Governor of Seville, into a representation of his own mind? There is some slight face fusion in that he posed the general's head in exactly the same position as his Self-portrait in a Cocked Hat. They share the same proportions, the same chin and other features too but the similarity is not as obvious as the fact that they both have cocked hats so we will ignore them. The portrait is nonetheless not an accurate likeness. And there is, in addition, another feature that turns Guye into Goya: the hat.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Goya, Portrait of General Nicolas Guye (1810) Oil on canvas. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.

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The hat is based on Goya's eye in the self-portrait from Los Caprichos ten years earlier. Take a good look at the eye and then continue.

 

Captions for image(s) above:

Goya, "Franco. Goya y Lucientes, Pintor", Plate 1, Los Caprichos

Click image to enlarge.

The hat is a giant eye, Goya's eye, with its overhanging lid rising at a diagonal over his dark black pupil. Compare the two. The General is holding Goya's eye. We are on the inside of Goya's mind where the artist imagines Guye as the commanding general of his eye. It is, I suppose, another form of face fusion in which the general's power in this world becomes a metaphor for the power and command of Goya's eye in art.

Needless to say, Goya's practice here is so far removed from what art historians expect to see that they have never seen it. Some may not even see it now.

 

Captions for image(s) above:

Left: Detail of eye from Goya's Self-portrait in Los Caprichos (1799)

Right: Goya, Portrait of General Nicolas Guye (1810)

Click image to enlarge.

Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 07 May 2011. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.