The Last Communion of St. Joseph Calasanz (1819) by Francisco Goya

The Last Communion of St. Joseph Calasanz - Francisco Goya - 1819

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Artwork Information

TitleThe Last Communion of St. Joseph Calasanz
ArtistFrancisco Goya
Date1819
Mediumoil,panel
Dimensions43 x 33 cm
Art MovementRomanticism
Current LocationMusée Bonnat, Bayonne, France
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About The Last Communion of St. Joseph Calasanz

The artwork “The Last Communion of St. Joseph Calasanz” is an oil painting on panel created by the esteemed artist Francisco Goya in 1819, encapsulating the religious fervor characteristic of the Romanticism art movement. The piece measures 43 x 33 cm and classifies as a religious painting, aptly housed in the Musée Bonnat in Bayonne, France. This artwork, through its medium and genre, conveys a deep spiritual narrative inherent to its context and subject matter.

In the artwork, the scene is cast in solemn shadows, punctuated by rays of light that seem almost divine in their focus on the central figure, St. Joseph Calasanz. The saint is depicted at a significant moment of religious ceremony, kneeling with a halo faintly visible around his head, portraying his sanctity and piety. He is clothed in dark, rich garments with vibrant red touches at the knees, which correspond with the tones of the cleric’s ornate vestments, indicating the importance of the moment being depicted.

Facing him, a priest adorned in ceremonial attire, holding the Eucharist to St. Joseph Calasanz’s lips, appears as the giver of the holy sacrament. The intensity of the encounter is reflected in both their expressions—a moment of profound connection, faith, and transcendence. The dark background and the focused illumination serve to heighten the emotional gravity of the sacramental act.

In the surrounding atmosphere, the congregants—children to the right and adults to the left—bear witness to this pious exchange. Their faces, illuminated from above, display varied expressions of reverence, devotion, and deep contemplation, as they observe the sacrament’s administration. Some of the young observers are seemingly lost in thought or prayer, while the elder spectators gaze with an earnest solemnity that resonates with the painting’s overall mood of veneration and spirituality.

The composition employs chiaroscuro, the dramatic contrast of light and dark, to emphasize the emotional weight and significance of the sacrament. The stark lighting not only draws the viewer’s eye to the central figures but also imparts a theatrical effect to the painting, elevating the impact of this sacred event captured on canvas. Goya’s masterful brushwork and composition encapsulate the spirit of the Romantic era through the portrayal of deeply felt human experiences and the sublime, illustrating his capacity to combine religious narrative with profound emotional expression.

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