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Saturday, May 03, 2008

St Francis Borja

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (March 30, 1746 – April 16, 1828)
San Francisco de Borja y el moribundo impenitente/ St Francis Borja at the Deathbed of an Impenitent (1788)
Oil on Canvas 350 x 300 cm
Museum of the Cathedral of Valencia, Valencia, Spain


Mengs was called to Madrid in the summer of 1761 to serve as first court painter to Carlos III.

In 1774, Goya moved to Madrid. There, he studied with Mengs, who had called him there to study with him. He clashed with his master, and his examinations were unsatisfactory. Goya submitted entries for the Royal Academy of Fine Art in 1763 and 1766, but was denied entrance. It took a long while for Goya to establish himself as a recognised artist after this. But he did.

Mengs had great influence over the practice and theory of art in Spain, particularly in the years following his death in 1779. A Spanish edition of his writings was published in 1780. At the time in Spain his writings were described as "the catechism of good taste and the code of professors and lovers of the arts," and he was described as "the philosopher painter, of the master, of the benefactor and the legislator of the arts."


The painting had been commissioned by the tenth Duke of Osuna for the chapel dedicated to St Francis Borja in the Cathedral of Valencia.

The saint was an ancestor of the Duchess of Osuna

St. Francis Borgia (October 28, 1510, Gandia (Spain) - September 30, 1572, Rome) was a Spanish Jesuit and third Superior General of the Society of Jesus. A Spanish aristocrat (son of The Duke of Gandia) 1546 his wife Eleanor died. Francis was determined to enter the newly formed Society of Jesus. He put his affairs in order, renounced his titles (including the Dukedom) in favour of his eldest son, Carlos, and became a Jesuit priest. He was canonised in 1671.

Contrary to what was formerly believed, the painting does not represent an exorcism.

The painting is based on an account of a scene in the saint`s life written in an eighteenth-century biography of the saint written by Cardinal Alvaro Cienfuego: La heroica vida, virtudes, y milagros del grande S. Francisco de Borja.

The Cardinal described how the carved image of the crucified Christ held by Saint Francis, having realised that the soul of a particular dying man could not be saved, detached its [the Crucifix's] nailed right arm, and placing its hand in that profusely bleeding lacerated wound in its chest, withdrew a fist filled with blood, and hurled it with indignation at the frowning, denigrated face, saying "Since you scorn this blood, which was shed for your glory, let it serve for your eternal unhappiness." Then that pitiful man, with an awful, blasphemous shout directed against Jesus Christ, gave up his soul, convulsed by a horrid moan, and it was turned over to the infamous ministers of fire and fright

In the picture, in addition to the saint and the sinner are four demonic creatures behind the sinner.

The saint is represented as an ideal classical figure (conforming to Mengs` theory of idealised representation) but the sinner is represented in a naturalised form and the monsters are simply fantastical.