Fight with Cudgels

Fight with Cudgels (Spanish: Riña a garrotazos or Duelo a garrotazos), called The Strangers or Cowherds in the inventories,[1] is the name given to a painting by Spanish artist Francisco Goya, now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid. One of the series of Black Paintings Goya painted directly onto the walls of his house sometime between 1820 and 1823, it depicts two men fighting one another with cudgels, as they seem to be trapped knee-deep in a quagmire of mud or sand.

Fight with Cudgels
Spanish: Duelo a garrotazos
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes - Duelo a garrotazos.jpg
ArtistFrancisco Goya
Yearc. 1820–1823
MediumOil mural transferred to canvas
Dimensions123 cm × 266 cm (48 in × 105 in)
LocationMuseo del Prado, Madrid
Photograph by Jean Laurent, taken around 1874 before the transfer to canvas. Some signs of the lower legs can be appreciated. Charles Yriarte, who viewed the paintings at the Quinta had already interpreted that the duelists fought on a grass field, not in mud until their knees.[citation needed]

In 1819, Goya purchased a house on the banks of the Manzanares near Madrid named Quinta del Sordo ("Villa of the Deaf Man"). It was a small two-story house which was named after a previous occupant who had been deaf, although Goya had also been left deaf after contracting a fever in 1792. Between 1819 and 1823, when he moved to Bordeaux, Goya produced a series of 14 works, which he painted with oils directly onto the walls of the house. Fight with Cudgels had been situated in the upper room of Quinta del Sordo.[2]


The traditional interpretation has been as fight of two commoners fighting in a desolate place trapped knee-deep.

The British researcher Nigel Glendinning had already remarked the differences between the current state of the Black Paintings and that documented by Jean Laurent before the transfer. By the end of 2010, another study of the Laurent images by Carlos Foradada, a painter and teacher of Art History, restated that Goya painted the duelists on a grass ground. The failure in the transfer caused the loss of large areas of painting, then tried to conceal under the knees. This favored the interpretation of the interred legs.[3]

According to Francisco-Xavier de Salas Bosch, Goya may have been referencing an allegory (number 75)[4] that appears in the work by Diego de Saavedra Fajardo, the emblem book Empresas Políticas [Political Maxims], Idea de un príncipe político cristiano, which contained a hundred short essays on the education of a prince.[1] The allegory referred to the Greek myth of Cadmus and the dragon's teeth.[1] By the instructions of Athena, Cadmus sowed the dragon's teeth in the ground, from which there sprang a race of fierce armed men, called Spartoi ("sown"). By throwing a stone among them, Cadmus caused them to fall upon one another until only five survived, who assisted him to build the Cadmea or citadel of Thebes.

Saavedra used this imagery to discuss how some rulers stir up discord in order to ultimately establish peace in their kingdoms. Goya's use of this allegory may have referred to the policies and politics of Ferdinand VII.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Black Paintings: Excerpted from the book GOYA by Xavier de Salas". Erik Weems. 1997–2006. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  2. ^ Richard Schickel and the Editors of Time-Life Books, The World of Goya 1746-1828 (New York: Time-Life Books, 1968), 172.
  3. ^ «La cara oculta de las 'pinturas negras'», Público. es, 29 December 2010.
  4. ^ Page 572 of Idea de vn principe politico christiano, Diego de Saauedra Faxardo, 1643, Munich. At Biblioteca Digital Hispánica.

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