Las Viejas

Goya, Francisco

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on linen

Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra
  • Date of entry: Jul-28-2006
  • Last revised: Jul-14-2008


Two old women and one winged man peer downwards at a book held tightly by one of the women. The front cover of the books reads "Que Tal?"--Spanish for "How are Things? " or "What's the News?" Both women are elaborately dressed and made up, as though trying to cover over their age with finery and make-up. The lady on the left-hand side of the painting holding the book is dressed in black and red; she wears a veil of sorts upon her head and her clothes imply mourning. Her face is aged and nearly skeletal, her teeth appear bony and pointed, and her recessed eyes look with interest to the book she holds.

On the right hand side of the painting, another old woman dressed in white presents a visual contrast to her neighbor. Her fanciful dress is complemented by sparkling jewelry. This lady's eyes are red and puffy. She smiles as she reads, her spirit apparently engaged as her body hovers on the edge of life. Behind these two crones, Father Time approaches on his wings, holding a staff only partially revealed--it is perhaps a broom or scythe. Father Time's eyes are blackened, his hair grey, and his body well muscled. His appearance is one of age combined with strength.


Las Viejas, a painting that goes by many additional names, including The Old Girls, The Old Ones, Time and the Old Women, Old Women Looking in a Mirror, and Que Tal?, lends itself to many different readings. The fundamental gist of the painting seems clear, however; Father Time is old yet strong whereas the women's agedness evokes a certain amount of disgust or pathos in the viewer. Whatever the women are reading or scrutinizing,--whether it is a scandal rag, as has been suggested by some scholars, or it is a mirror--their attention is focused on the worldly, the mundane, and the temporal. The women are oblivious to the power of Time who presently swoops in behind them.

Goya probably painted this artwork late in his life when he suffered from illness and became deaf. Las Viejas invites the viewer to ponder the beauty or ugliness of agedness, the frailty of existence, and the inevitability of death.


Date unknown. At the online site for this painting (Web Gallery of Art ), the title is "Les Vieilles or Time and the Old Women" and is listed in the Goya section 1811-1815.

Primary Source

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, France