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Goya’s black paintings: The fates

Goya’s black paintings: The fates

Artist Francisco Goya
Title The fates
Year 1819-1823
Technique Mural (later converted to canvas)
Current location Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
Francisco Goya - Black Paintings - The fates

The fates

In classical mythology, the fates are three goddesses that control the thread of life. They are the personifications of destiny (or fate). The first, Clotho, spins the thread of life, the second, Lachesis, controls its length, and the third, Atropos, cuts it. They symbolize birth, the passage through life, and death, respectively. Traditionally, Clotho is pictured holding a spool, Lachesis holding a thread coming from the spool, and Atropos cutting the thread with shears.

In Goya’s painting The fates (also known as The fate or Atropos), we see the three fates carrying of a man, presumably someone whose thread has just been cut. Clotho is holding an effigy instead of her spool, Lachesis a looking-glass or lens, and Atropos small scissors insteads of her shears.

The fates are goddesses, but there is nothing godlike or divine in these women. They have the same distorted, brutal faces we have seen in several of the black paintings.

The dreary, moonlit landscape serves to create a spooky atmosphere.

The fates is on display in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

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