Goya actually inscribed on the back of the canvas, "El célebre ciego fijo", which means, The Famous Local Blind Man. Later amendments to the presentation of the painting have unfortuantely lost this detail, but several accounts have consistently described what was there before. The overall theme of this artwork is darkness, both in the disability of the subject but also in the palette of the painting. The man appears only from chest-upwards, allowing the artist to focus almost entirely on his expressive facial features. Bright light is shone upon his forehead, allowing us to see him clearly, but with most of the rest of the scene merging into a mass of black. His teeth are uneven, with many missing. They are also of unhealthy colours, underlining his difficult life. His appearance is untidy, with an unshaven chin and greying hair.
This portrait is believed to have been a personal project for the artist who did so purely for the enjoyment. It was rare for him to be able to work exclusively on items that took his fancy, as normally he would have to produce portraits for patrons in order to make ends meet. He would later gift this artwork to his grandson, Mariano Goya y Goicoechea, who would sell off all of his gifted items after his grandfather's death. The money was unfortunately frittered away carelessly, despite the consistent kindness that Goya had shown him throughout his own lifetime.
This memorable piece from circa 1819-1820 is now owned by the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, which is amongst the most important galleries within the city. Whilst most visitors will flock to the extraordinary Prado Museum, there is also plenty to admire within the impressive collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza. In terms of artists related to Goya, you will find many major European names featured here, including Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens and Caravaggio. In terms of specific highlights, you might appreciate the likes of The See-Saw by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Revolving House by Paul Klee, Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate by Salvador Dali and also Fränzi in front of Carved Chair by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. In all, the collection runs into thousands of items of art and antiquities, meaning there is plenty to see for all manner of tastes.