Friday, 18 November 2011

Francisco de Goya

I believe the correct title for this painting by Goya is "Court of the Inquisition". As the victims/accused are wearing sanbenitos I would think the painting depicts an auto de fe - the reading of the charges, followed by acts of repentance for the penitent and punishment for the impenitent. Tribunals of the Inquisition operated in total secrecy and without an audience. Smaller autos were conducted in churches, monasteries or Inquisition premises, and that may be what is shown here.

Goya was active in the early 19th Century, by which date the Inquisition was in decline. After invading Spain Napoleon abolished the Inquisition, but it was reconstituted after the French were ejected.

It appears that a Dominican monk is reading the charges, while members of the nobility sit in the foreground and clergy in the background. It was considered meritorious for aristocrats to attend autos de fe.

If the flames on the victims' hats are pointing upwards, then they are already condemned to be burnt to death. They will have been informed the day before. Generally non-heretics, and heretics who repented (or said they did), were garrotted before the fires were lit.

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