The Meadow of San Isidro on his Feast Day

Francisco Goya
Keywords: MeadowSanIsidroFeastDay

Work Overview

The Meadow of San Isidro on his Feast Day
Francisco Goya
Original Title: La Pradera de San Isidro en su día de fiesta
Date: 1788
Style: Romanticism
Genre: genre painting
Media: oil, canvas
Dimensions: 94 x 44 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

This was one of the sketches for a tapestry cartoon that was never executed, due to the death of Charles III, who had commissioned them. It was among the sketches sold to the Duke of Osuna in 1799. The scene represents the most popular festival in the Madrid calendar, which is still celebrated on 15 May, the feast day of the city's patron saint, Isidore the Labourer. In a letter to his friend Zapater in Saragossa, Goya wrote of the difficulties of such a subject especially as he had to finish this painting by the saint's day 'with all the bustle of the court'. It is in fact a rare example of a landscape by Goya, taken from the far side of the Manzanares River with the city's landmarks on the horizon, and in the foreground the crowds amusing themselves as at a fair, the pilgrims hard to distinguish among the animated crowds.

Goya's viewpoint must have been the Hermitage of San Isidro, the goal of the pilgrimage. The building in Goya's painting (also designed as a sketch for a tapestry cartoon), is still preserved, marking the spot where the saint struck a well of water with healing powers. On a tiny scale, Goya has included the pilgrims lining up to enter the church, a picnic scene and a group at the miraculous well. Many years later Goya was to decorate the walls of his country house, the Quinta del Sordo, built not far from the Hermitage, with a nightmare vision of A Pilgrimage to San Isidro.

Goya never actually painted the cartoon for this scene, which is one of his masterpieces, and the most popular of a series intended for the bedroom of the infantas in Madrid's El Pardo Palace. The project was suspended following the death of Carlos III. Here, the painter manages to capture the sensation of life and the hustle and bustle of a crowd sitting in the meadow. The landscape opens onto the Manzanares River and the background offers a panoramic view of Madrid, where the beauty of light and color are joined by the precision of the topography, including the huge buildings of the Royal Palace and the Seminary, as well as the large dome of the church of San Francisco el Grande, and other perfectly recognizable towers.