Citadel on the Rock
In his Citadel on a Rock (Figure 1), where three white-winged creatures soar beside a citied cliff, Goya illustrates the fantastic and may have been expanding on the etching, Modo de volar (Hughes 18) from the Disparates series (1816-23), that contains a total of five human figures experimenting with winged apparatuses. The visual elements of Citadel on a Rock (Figure 1) are charged with signifying power, implying several ideas: first, man’s ability to transcend nature, next the conflation of confinement and refuge, and finally, the blending of the imaginary with reality.
Goya employs his imagination to transcend reality and explore new possibilities through the medium of art. Naturally, man does not have wings, nor can he fly, but in the realm of imagination it is possible, as seen in the three flying figures soaring beside the cliff in Citadel on a Rock (Figure 1). In Goya’s own words, “Imagination forsaken by reason begets monsters: united with reason, she is the mother of all art and the source of its wonders (Churchill 4).” The iconography of the winged creatures alludes to the supernatural or metaphysical. The color of the figures’ wings suggest the purity of the endeavor; white is associated with both the pure and the divine. The number of winged creatures reflects the religious idea of the trinity.
By juxtaposing real objects and settings with unnatural and imaginative ones, Goya alludes to societal uncertainty about how to treat the insane and how to distinguish reality from imagination. Foucault maintains that a deep-seated anxiety existed during the eighteenth century because of the fuzzy line between imagination and reality, between madness and genius (Foucault 28-29). Fantastic Vision (Figure 4), depicts two large floating human figures in the middle foreground of the mural. In the background looms the city-crowned mountain. Ichnographically, Goya equates the fantastical figures with the imaginary, as he suspends the two figures unnaturally in midair. He conflates them with reality since the setting for the painting is a believable landscape filled with French soldiers. As elements of fantasy, the figures are concerned about the reasonable confinement of madness, as symbolized by the fortress to which the first figure points. The proportions of the two floating figures emphasize their focal position within the painting by the color employed in their classical garb (Bozal 56). Collectively, the two figures symmetrically balance the composition by being similar in scale to the entire mountain. One wild-eyed, gaping-mouthed figure points in the direction of the city. The other, wrapped in an eye-catching red cloak, glances furtively behind them. The large cliff and fortified city allude to confinement and refuge simultaneously. City boundaries demarcate the citizen’s existence. At the same time the city provides a haven from whatever evils threaten outside. Similarly, reasonable society confined the madman as a way of differentiating him from the sane. Foucault’s discourse concludes that society confined the madman as a means of segregating themselves and purifying an identifiable norm. In effect, by setting aside the insane and ill in the same places and providing the general public with visual access to them, they entrenched the mixing of the insane and sane (Foucault 209).
The combining of insane with normal people analogizes the blending of reality with the imaginary in another of Goya’s paintings. Fantastic Vision (Figure 4), one of the murals from the Quinto del Sordo, is thematically similar to Citadel on a Rock (Figure 1). Both images have fortified cities on top of steep mountains along with the presence of human beings, allusions to violence, and fantastical creatures. Many of Goya’s paintings in the Quinta del Sordo are bequeathed to his grandson Mariano in 1823 (Bozal 61), contain visual references to mountains and fortresses, consistently implying an underlying theme of reason versus madness. Other imagery within Fantastic Vision (Figure 4), points to the violent effects of the Romantic confusion between madness and reason. In the right foreground with his back to the viewer, a uniformed soldier aims a musket at a group of distant, mounted travelers; next to him crouches a second soldier. The red feather in the soldier’s hat arrests the viewer’s eye and foreshadows the violence, since red is the color of blood. It also serves to unify the painting; the hue of the feather is identical to the cloak color of the second floating figure. This unifying design element implies Goya’s association of violence with the fantastical and entrenches the blending of fantasy and reality.
According to Foucault, Goya is the artist who transmitted to the Western world the idea that violence results from madness as an alternative way to exceed reason’s limitations (Foucault 19). The dialectic between reason and unreason ushers in violence. The soldiers in Fantastic Vision (Figure 4), are remarkably similar to the firing, faceless ones in The Third of May (Figure 7). The visual tie between the two paintings helps substantiate Goya’s Romantic emphasis on the expression of feeling, even though both show it in a negative light.
Goya also refers to violence in Citadel on a Rock (Figure 1). Groups of marauders loiter, as licking flames besiege the mountain’s base. Foucault indicates that the confinement of madness led to a burgeoning of the fantastical, the desire to transcend reality. This obsession fed into baser desires to see horror (Foucault 210). Violence a component of horror, is often associated with a mob mentality. Mobs often form in reaction to tyranny. When a group of people have perceived and become passionate about restrictions placed on them by a higher authority, a mob may be produced. The restriction is the reality, which mobs attempt to transcend, often through violence. Goya presents, this theory and process, to the viewer through the imagery in Citadel on a Rock (Figure 1).
Collective madness, or the irrationality of larger groups of people, is manifest in other Goya paintings. No artist prior to Goya had projected corporate madness (Hughes 18). On the first floor of the Quinto del Sordo, The St. Isidore Pilgrimage (Figure 14), provides one example. The human figures, replete with contorted, facial expressions painted in a rough way (Hughes 17-18), stand in stark opposition to the controlled, academic style of Classical painting associated with reason. It may be that the people in this painting are a close-up of the groups in Citadel on a Rock (Figure 1), and Fantastic Vision (Figure 4).