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Teaching Materials

Goya’s Ghosts (2006)


The film depicts the life and work of Spanish artist Francisco Goya, his relationship with the daughter of a wealthy merchant whom the Spanish Inquisition calls a heretic.

18th century, Spain.

  • Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746 1828) was a Spanish romantic painter and printmaker. He is considered the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and throughout his long career was a commentator and chronicler of his era. Immensely successful in his lifetime, Goya is often referred to as both the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns. He was also one of the great portraitists of his time. In 1766 he arrives in Madrid, where he is introduced to the works of Royal artists. Participated in the competition of the Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, his works were rejected, which is why he could not get into the Royal Academy of Arts in San Fernando.
  • In the 1770s he traveled to Italy and successfully compete the contest in Parma with painting “Hannibal Crossing the Alps”
  • In 1780, Goya painted “Christ Crucified” and has been appointed as a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Art. From 1788 to 1808 he became a painter for King Charles III and King Charles IV.
  • In the 18th century, frightened by the French Revolution, Charles IV resumed the Inquisition in Spain and banned the distribution of French literature. During this period, Goya created graphic works for the Spanish people: Los Caprichos.
  • The Inquisition is a court and a tribunal of the Catholic Church, that was set up as early as the Middle Ages to fight heresy. The Inquisition combined investigative and judicial powers. It was separated from the government. The Inquisition took a particularly brutal form in Spain and was used as a weapon of counterreformation.
  • Romanticism as an artistic trend spread from the second half of the 18th – to the first decade of the 19th century. It is characterized by the expression of personal interests and feelings, detachment from reality, individualism, often romantic artists (Caspar David Friedrich, Eugène Delacroix, Théodore Géricault) used historical, biblical, mythological themes. Francisco Goya is one of the most important representatives of European (Spanish) romanticism.
  • Spain gradually lost its former glory in the 18th century, weakening its military power. His lands became the object of desires of France, Britain and Austria. The war, known in history for the Spanish heritage, ended with the creation of the government of Philip V. The European lands of Spain were distributed as follows: the Austrian Bourbons received Spanish lands in the Netherlands and Italy, the British – Gibraltar and Minorca, and France got the North American lands.
  • In the 19th century, there were 5 unfinished revolutions in Spain: 1808-1814, 1820-1823, 1834-1843, 1854-1856, 1868-1874. The country was politically weakened and experienced an economic downturn.
  • In 1808, Napoleon conquered Spain and elevated his brother Joseph to the throne. At first, the Spanish people happily accepted the ideas of equality, brotherhood, freedom, but then resisted the destruction of the Spanish royal family by the French. This was followed by mass arrests, fighting in the streets of the cities… Thousands of people gathered in the monastery and were shot on May 3, Francisco Goya reflected on this historical event that in his famous painting. When asked why he painted all this, the author himself answered: “To warn people never to act like that again!” In 1812, with the help of the British, Spain was liberated from the Napoleonic regime.
  • In 1815, Goya appeared before the Inquisition, accused of depicting a naked woman on canvas (“The Nude Maja”), and exiled from Madrid. It is said that in the last years of his life he painted the walls of his house with a nightmarish series of “Black Paintings”.
  • Francisco Goya was a recognized and accepted artist both at the royal family and at the church. It is true that the churchmen did not recognize and criticize his engravings, but nevertheless he maintained a good relationship with both forces (the church, the royal family), what do you think was the reason for this?
  • Miloš Forman shows the silent confrontation of two people in his film “Amadeus”: Mozart and Salieri. In “Goya’s Ghosts”, which two characters can be considered as such a dichotomous pair (dichotomy – is a partition of a whole into two parts)?
  • The Spanish Inquisition was known in Europe for its cruelty and strict laws. How does the director show the Spanish clergy, how confident they are in their doctrine? Is evil committed in the name of God justified?
  • Heresy is a severe punishment, so much so that even the King of Spain himself cannot save an innocent girl who has confessed her Jewish origins as a result of torture. One clergyman even utters a phrase like this: “The truth of the confession obtained through torture will be called into question if we release him.” What does this mean to you, how confident is the Church in its actions, for what did the 18th-century Spanish Church use the Inquisition?
  • Brother Lorenzo is a mysterious and heterogeneous character. He is the main apologist of the Inquisition, moving to France for fear of being judged for a “mistake”, where he is introduced to Voltaire’s ideas, then returns to Spain and tries to forget the past, what actions does he undertake? What kind of person do you think he is?
  • At the beginning of the film, “Fathers of the Inquisition” criticizes the engravings of Francisco Goya, what danger do they see and what do they not like?
  • How does Goya contribute to historical vicissitudes? As an artist, how do he react to the change of political regimes?
  • The Spanish Inquisition treated women with particular cruelty, what do you think was the reason for this?
  • According to the ideas of the French Revolution and the “Declaration of Human Rights”, the Spanish Inquisition was abolished, all prisoners were pardoned, but in a few years the king restored again, which characters in the film are most affected by these changes and in what form?

Write about this film
Given the epoch-making contexts and issues raised by the discussion, focus on the artist and his or her era when writing about the film. “Goya’s Ghosts” clearly show the controversy between the Spanish state and the church. These two institutions operate separately and form two independent states. Think about the fate of the artist at this time, whose side does Francisco Goya choose? What does it mean to be a free man when the monarchy is replaced by the ideas of the French Revolution and the monarchy returns again! Against the background of historical vicissitudes, how the face of a Spanish painter is represented. Analyze the artist’s personality in a romantic, epoch-making context. Try to consider Goya’s character in relation to other characters: the royal family, the merchant’s daughter, the clergy… The film’s protagonist, along with Francisco Goya, is Brother Lorenzo. When writing, try to focus on how the director describes the fate of two completely different people, the historical reality of the country and the change of political regime.

Individual activities
“Saturn Devouring His Son” is the most inspiring work of Francisco Goya. The artist worked on the canvas for 4 years, it’s height is 146 centimeters and his width is 83. The story of ancient mythology acquires special significance and intensity in the era of Romanticism. It is always important what political processes precede the creation of a particular work of art. Find information about the political and social changes that took place in Spain in 1819-1823. What challenges it faced in the first decades of the 19th century, being at one time the most powerful and wealthy state in Europe. Find more information about Goya’s later paintings “The Third of May 1808” and “Charles IV of Spain and His Family”. Try to analyze these paintings in an epoch-making context, against the background of historical vicissitudes. In addition, find out more about Francisco Goya’s painting techniques and various painting techniques (etching, engraving)

Group work/additional activities
Curriculum links: Fine Arts, History

In 1800, Goya created a large-scale painting “Charles IV of Spain and His Family”. During group work, analyze in detail the multi-figure composition and the relative ones with the “Las Meninas” of the Spanish artist Diego Velázquez. What is common and distinctive in them? Goya is said to have sought to gain the king’s favor and improve his social status by performing the painting. In the picture, like Velázquez, Goya depicts himself on the left, with an easel, and some critics believe that the artist’s irony towards the King and Queen of Spain is obvious. Goya, wanted the painting to look like an earlier family portrait of the Spanish royal family. During the group work, discuss the expressive methods of the work of the Spanish painter Francisco Goya. In addition, compare the era of Romanticism, the work of Diego Velázquez and the Spanish Baroque. Discuss which artists of the 20th century were influenced by the work of Francisco Goya.

Additional activities:
After discussion and group work, students can visualize the narrative material. Create a wall newspaper or electronic presentation where you present the material you have individually or in groups: The Life and Creativity of Francisco Goya. Select one specific episode of Goya’s life (decade) Present the presentation in the context of epoch: historical reality, form of government, the role of the church…


As a result of watching the film, discussion and writing a review in which it is necessary to use epoch-making contexts and the above recommendations, the student will be more aware of the life and work of Francisco Goya in Spain in the second half of the 18th century, as well as on Spanish Romanticism.


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