The House Where Goya Was Born Becomes Museum
MADRID, Spain (AP) _ After years of neglect, Spaniards have turned the birthplace of Francisco de Goya into a modest but dignified monument to the painter whose work has come to symbolize the passion of Spain.
Until a year ago, the two-storey stone house in the village of Fuendetodos, 150 miles northeast of Madrid where Goya was born March 31, 1746, stood near ruin. After a popular outcry, restoration was finally completed last summer and the building was opened to the public.
The house where Goya died in exile 82 years later in Bordeaux, France, had been converted into a museum and a Spanish cultural center in 1981.
If luck holds and additional government funds are provided, restoration will be completed on another building that is to house etchings done by the village’s favorite son, said Fuendetodos municipal secretary Manuel Pena Esquerra.
Local officials hope that both buildings will serve as a magnet to attract visitors off the beaten track to the slowly dying sheep-raising village of 175 in the heart of the stark Aragon plateau.
Interest in Goya has peaked partly because of a new opera by Gian Carlo Menotti. Fragments of Goya’s life as painter at the late 18th and early 19th century Spanish royal court make up the basis of the new work, which had its world premiere in Washington on Nov. 15.
As court painter of King Fernando VII, Goya lived through the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and later served Joseph Bonaparte, the French-installed replacement.
It was during this period that Goya witnessed the horrors of war from which he drew inspiration for his most powerful works, including the 1808 ″Disasters of War″ etchings and the 1814 ″2 May″ and ″3 May″ canvases depicting the execution of Spanish rebels by French firing squads.
Following Fernando VII’s restoration to the throne and increasing political repression, Goya left Spain for Bordeaux in 1824 and died there in exile four years later in a comfortable dwelling.
The building is now the headquarters of the Association of the Friends of the House of Goya and the Spanish Cultural Center.
Goya’s birthplace was all but forgotten until 1934 when Spanish painter Ignacio Zuloaga (1870-1945) bought the small building with an eye toward restoring it.
However, the Spanish Civil War in 1936 intervened, and Fuendetodos found itself in the middle of the bitterly contested Aragon campaign. Goya’s house was not damaged, though.
After the war the house passed to Zuloaga’s heirs who turned it over for upkeep to a national trust. From then on its fate was in the hands of the Spanish bureaucracy, which ironically found it easier to help with the transformation of Goya’s Bordeaux residence on the fashionable Cours Intendence into a Spanish cultural center for southwestern France.
Karin Lopez, the French daughter of one of the thousands of Spaniards who emigrated to the Bordeaux region in the late 1950s and ’60s, runs the center, which also cooperates with the University of Bordeaux’s Hispanic Studies department.
″The house was really saved by a group of about 100 French admirers of Goya who formed the association,″ she said in an interview.
In 1888 French officials agreed to exhume Goya’s body and return it to Spain where the painter was buried in Madrid’s San Antonio de la Florida chapel on whose walls he had once painted a wonderfully vivid fresco of everyday life in the Spanish capital.
Goya’s return to Spain was not without controversy since the body was delivered headless. Documents prepared at the time indicate it had been exhumed without the head, Ms. Lopez said.
″There are a number of theories about what happened to Goya’s head,″ she said. ″The Association favors the explanation that some French doctors stole the head before burial in order to study it to discover the origin of his genius.″