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Francisco de Goya likely painted The Water Carrier (La Aguadora) and its companion piece The Knife Grinder (El Afilador) for his own home. The Water Carrier was worth 300 reales in 1812, a relatively high price considering the size of the painting.
Additionally, x-rays revealed that the painting was completed using a recycled canvas. Since both The Water Carrier and The Knife Grinder feature a low point of view, Goya possibly created these paintings as overdoors for his Madrid residence located in Calle Valverde. The Water Carrier is an outstanding example of genre painting by Goya. The work is particularly remarkable for its modern look and the unusual way in which the scene was depicted against an almost abstract background.
The subject of the painting is shown from a low perspective and is painted full-length. The water carrier's pose places the jug of water on one hip while her other hand holds a basket. This position carries classical connotations and transforms the subject from a position of subservience and labour into one of heroism in which she is exalted and everything else, including the landscape, is her subordinate. Over the years, many critics have interpreted both The Water Carrier and its companion piece as homages to the veterans that fought against Napolean. Goya expressed his admiration for his countrymen who participated in the war in other works as well, such as The Manufacture of Bullets and The Manufacture of Gunpowder. In the case of The Water Carrier, Goya may have wished to pay his respects to those who were less directly involved in the way effort but still assisted the soldiers.
Another noteworthy aspect of The Water Carrier is its colour scheme. The depicted figure is wearing a white shawl wrapped around her chest, a dark red-brown skirt and a yellow sash tied around her waist to help support the weight of the water jar. The colours used in the clothing create strong areas of contrast and are further complemented by the use of orange in the water jar and the dark greys and blues of the background. The Water Carriers was a popular painting and various copies of this work exist. While the copies show the admiration people held for this piece, their authenticity has not been proven. These copies have made their way to the Norton Simon Foundation in Fullerton, California, the National Museum of San Carlos in Mexico and the collection of the Marquis of Montesa in Madrid, Spain.