The Straw Manikin

Francisco Goya
Keywords: StrawManikin

Work Overview

The Straw Manikin
Francisco Goya
Original Title: El maniquí de paja
Date: 1791 - 1792
Style: Romanticism
Genre: genre painting
Media: oil, canvas
Dimensions: 160 x 97 cm
Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

This belongs to Goya's last suite of tapestry cartoons, the only series made for Charles IV after Goya's appointment as Court Painter. The tapestries were to decorate one of the apartments in the Escorial and the subjects, chosen by the King, were to be 'rural and jocose'. Goya had delayed making the sketches as he objected to receiving his instructions from Maella instead of from the Lord Chamberlain. He eventually submitted, since he did not, as he said, want to appear proud. After the naturalism of some of the earlier cartoons, the stiffness of the figures and their artificial expressions come as a surprise. The human figures are as puppet-like as the straw manikin they are tossing in a blanket. A light-hearted carnival tradition here assumes a cruel dimension in a scene that shows what strong women can do with a weak man.

Four young women laugh and play at blanket-tossing a doll or manikin in the air. The latter´s movement is the result of their caprice. Its carnival origins are visible in the use of masks and joking, but the blanket-tossing of a doll is used here by Goya as a clear allegory of women´s domination of men. The subject is frequent in the artist´s work, and examples can be found in his engravings from the Caprichos and Disparates series. This painting is one of the cartoons for the tapestries in Carlos IV´s office at El Escorial, and it clearly reveals characteristics common in his last cartoons, such as a softer color and the use of contrasting light to mark depth, clear here in the doll´s silhouette, which stands out against the background.