The Burial of the Sardine Francisco de Goya Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The talented Francisco Goya did the oil-on-panel painting. Dated in the 1810s, the artist had a way of portraying surrealism, horror and plots that most viewers deemed hard to understand.

He always communicated his thoughts through art, and The Burial of the Sardine is a favourite art to many, especially since it is connected to the Spaniard ceremony. According to critics, the author showed the ceremony but with a hint of absurdity. The painting displays a huge number of people dancing. The women at the front are dressed in white while the other people have different coloured clothes. In the middle of the crowd is a man holding a huge painting of a smiling human being. Most of the revellers are masked and disguised and can be seen dancing their way to the banks of the Manzanares. According to critics, that is where the ceremonial sardine would be buried. Goya showed the facial expression of the revellers, and generally, they look happy.

Taking a closer look at the front line, the viewers can see six people. Four of them are huddled in a group of twos, and they seem to be watching the show, whereby one seemed hurt and is supported by the other. The two in the middle hold each other and point to the crowd. The other two on the far right are supposedly a woman and a child. They are also watching the show in front of them. On the far left is a two-legged creature pointing to the crowd with its claws and has an agape mouth. Close to the animal, viewers can notice a differently dressed man who seems to be enforcing law and order. He is holding a weapon in his arms, and a small boy can be seen peering behind him. It is a quite disturbing piece of art considering the ambiguity in the people’s faces, those at the front seated and those seemingly dancing.

According to critics, the painting signifies the burial of the Sardine, which is a major celebration in Spain. Back then, on Ash Wednesday, the people of Madrid and other Spanish cities went to the streets and formed a noisy crowd. This crowd carried a huge fish, danced with it, and then burned just like in the carnival and the ashes thrown into the water. Today, the elegant painting is stored at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando (Madrid). He is celebrated for his paintings, and Spain recognises him as the greatest artist after Velazquez. In a bid to honour him, The Academy of San Fernando included The Burial of the Sardine in its collection.

The Burial of the Sardine in Detail Francisco de Goya