Goya in Literature. 1
November 2014

Writes Pierre Michon on Francisco de Goya under the title ‘Dios no acaba’ (God no ends), published in the book ‘Señores y sirvientes’ (Masters and Servants) published in Spain by Anagrama. His reference has seemed the best possible start to the new G&L (Goya in Literature) section of this blog. It’s a story with an exceptional density, the best that has been written and seen on art, and with the admirable ability to achieve, based on the silence of paintings, to evoke wonders and suggest a time mentality. Narrated in a unique way, Pierre Michon reveals the life, the history of Goya as original as dazzling way.

You have to be very brave and very good writing to make biographical fiction of such category. And the author of ‘Vidas minúsculas’ (Tiny Lives) has a unique and remarkable voice. The result cannot be more than excellent and in which cannot anything but underline Michel Crépu who in La Croix says that “Masters and Servants should be read as the authentic and rare books that yet circulate in our planet to read: word by word, in silence”.

The book is so beautiful, that Goya is simply beautified in this tangential biography if it would be possible. His arrivals to Madrid, at 17, 20, at 27 from his native Zaragoza, it is inadvertently while it is impossible to believe. “…awkward, on stand firm, as a landmark, with his folders under the arm, pudgy, stunned and doing for smile, that young man of Zaragoza, low and thick” …that in likeness of young Armand, aged 17, which portrays Van Gogh, “wanted to get brightly to those real world roads that pass, in this world, everywhere but by (Zaragoza), get out of it”.

And only in Madrid do look towards “a Mengs so aware of itself” and a Tiepolo of blue skies at the top of the Court. After helping the Gilder father and working firm in the natal Zaragoza; “as to not be that would have not had those little works with whom we already know that well complied, in Sobradiel, in Remolinos, in the Aula Dei of Carthusian, villages a stone’s throw from Zaragoza, less than one morning on the back of a donkey from the premises of the golden saints, and there, in those charterhouses, in those small palaces of new rich men, in those remote churches, were waiting for him other saints, painted in fresco, but his hand-painted and just less golden; a few saints that were commissioned by people seeking a pintamonas (dauber) which was not too bad, unpretentious, little Italian in manners, but who painted in the Italian way, which preferred the soul to form, as they say in provinces, to be very as God commands, deferential with the coadjutors and educated with the butler of the parish”.

…”however painting also gave money; he had made to prosper the unspeakable Mengs and the vain Giaquinto, and that young thick and low also wanted to thrive. So in those rural charterhouses, to thrive, to understand, putting a bit of Tiepolo in the blue skies, a bit of Zurbarán in folds that fall to the ground with rigid folds, some cloud…” “And so for ten years. It was his time, that brief time where was said, when he walked by his thirties: let’s go, perhaps he becomes Mengs if God helps him. God helped him taking so the unexpected chance of a man… (then) a painter conveniently located in the court and more would have been it if he had not wasted time having envy of his shadow; and this, when he met the young low and thick man, felt that was harmless, was interested in him and decided to lend a hand and introduce him into society as a defender, and why not?, championed; yes, God put in his way, more fatuous than Tiepolo’s son, more troublemaker than a Neapolitan and more inept than Mengs, to the great Francisco Bayeu”.

Continues Pierre Michon with subtle and powerful word, this brilliant biography of Goya, as integrated into the truth of life as away from what the ignorant call young Goya, as connoisseur of painting, the life of artist, from everyday reality. In a deep and disturbing style. Someone interested in the signs of destiny, that will be inevitable to study Goya. Someone for whom “literature and art made better Humanity. But they rise over a store of doom.”


And which is the place composition of the writer? How does he do it? What is the layout? Pierre Michon himself tells it in a famous interview of 2003 in ‘La Fenelle du Requin’, no. 22 (sold out). Says: “the spiritual middle age is fascinating, among others, for being a time of manufacturing Saints.” In ‘Masters and Servants’ speaks of Van Gogh, of Piero della Francesca, Watteau, Claudio de Lorena and Goya… And actually what does is making saints of art because speaks of holy figures counting their lives and thus the painting.

And then describe the six years of the madrilenian patience and wedding with Josefa Bayeu, as plastic as a colourist, so Goya and also so black:

“brother-in-law of Francisco Bayeu, painter of the King, favourite disciple of Mengs and his dolphin safe, bossy and omnipresent, inept, powerful;” “and he (becomes), by the way, for the same price, brother-in-law of Manuel Bayeu, and Ramón not least painters and equally inept, but more tame…”

And then the children, the not incurred and Javier the occurred…” That was a fatuous (and) who loved his father, and who was in turn a son, Mariano, still more fatuous if able, to whom his grandfather flattered”

And the bullfighting, the friendly and family. And with a brilliant prose Goya revives in the eyes of the reader because Pierre Michon inhabits “the inebriation of the writing. That state of grace in which text flows almost without intervention of consciousness” as also know the painters.

Ends the narrative with El Pardo palace and Velazquez and the author comes to and manages to “get adjust the solemn and the prosaic in a narrative that somehow aspires to produce the same effect of those verses…” (by Victor Hugo and Baudelaire).

The writer, the masterful narrator, original, supreme and fabulous who is Pierre Michon puts us in Goya. Reason why from this blog encourage to read in silence and devotion this ‘God no ends’ that such identifies and integrates us with the great don Francisco de Goya.




Pierre MICHON. “Señores y Sirvientes”

Edit. Anagrama. Bareclona, 2003

Pierre MICHON. “Masters and Servants”.

Mercury Horse. San Francisco, 1997

Pierre MICHON. “Maîtres et Serviteurs”

Verdier, 1990

Pierre MICHON. “Dieu ne finit pas”. 2013