Goya Attended by Dr. Arrieta

Goya, Francisco

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Annotated by:
Winkler, Mary
  • Date of entry: Jan-20-1998


Goya has painted his own portrait as he was during an illness in his old age. The ailing artist sits upright in an olive-green dressing gown; his face is pale and is hands clutch at the sheet against which the carmine blanket glows as the most vivid color element in the painting. He is surrounded and supported by his physician who offers him medicine in a clear glass. The background is both dark and dense, revealing two shadowy figures behind Dr. Arrieta's elbow.

An inscription runs along the bottom border of the canvas, forming a kind of ledge or barrier. It reads in translation: "Goya thankful, to his friend Arrieta: for the skill and care with which he saved his life during his short and dangerous illness, endured at the end of 1819, at seventy-three years of age. He painted it in 1820."


This double portrait belongs to a particular tradition in religious art, that of the ex-voto image. These images derive from the practice of giving thanks by means of an offering--often in the form of a small clay, metal or wax effigy of the afflicted body part; or of a representation of the afflicted individual.

The ex-voto is a record of gratitude, and a memorial to a dangerous passage in the life of the donor. It is significant that Goya who had savaged the pretensions and vices of the medical profession here portrays his own physician in the post of the good Samaritan.

Primary Source

Goya and the Spirit of the Enlightenment (Boston: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1989)