The bronze statue is a replica of the 1902 work by Mariano Benlliure which stands outside the Goya entrance to the Museo del Prado in Madrid. It was a gift from the city of Madrid (one of the twin cities of Bordeaux) in March 1995 and was originally positioned in the Jardin Public. In 2008, the statue was relocated to Place du Chapelet, just outside the main entrance to Cour Mably and just metres away from Notre-Dame church, where Goya’s funeral took place.
Goya's final living quarters in Bordeaux were just a little further south on the third floor of number 57, Cours de l’Intendance, the now-pedestrianised boulevard that forms the southern flank of the affluent so-called Triangle d’Or quarter (the golden triangle). Aptly, the residence is now the Cervantes Institute Spanish cultural centre. Prior to that, he had also spent time on Rue de la Croix-Blanche and Rue Saint-Seurin, both of which are in the vicinity.
It was in 1824 that Goya chose to flee Spain, where he had pursued an illustrious career as painter by royal appointment. On the grounds of ill health (he was reportedly “deaf, clumsy, and weak”) but also for political reasons (rejecting the oppressive rule of Ferdinand VII), he relocated to Bordeaux with his much younger partner and nurse Leocadia Weiss and her daughter Rosario. Goya’s wife Josefa Baye had died in 1812 – later there were to be clashes between Goya’s legitimate family and the Weiss clan.
After his death aged 82 on April 16th 1828 (having failed to recover from falling down the stairs at his Cours de l’Intendance residence), Goya was buried in a tomb in the Chartreuse cemetery in central Bordeaux alongside his compatriot Martin Goicocchea, a former mayor of Madrid and father-in-law to Goya's son Javier. In 1899, both bodies were exhumed to be transferred back to Spain. Neither body could be formally identified. For a start, Goya's head had disappeared! It is believed that it was stolen by one of Goya's former models, the Marques de San Adrian, who may have sought to understand the workings of Goya's brain by doing some "hands-on" research. Goya's head was never to be found. The two bodies were transported in a single coffin and buried with others first in Saragosse then transferred to a joint mausoleum at the Royal Chapel of Saint Anthony of La Florida in Madrid.
The four years spent in Bordeaux inspired "Goya en Burdeos", a 1999 Spanish historical drama film written and directed by Carlos Saura. Although set in Bordeaux, the film is constructed around flashbacks enabling Goya to relive key periods in his life, with "each of his reveries becoming tableaux of his paintings" according to the film's IMDb page.
Goya’s remains may be back in Spain but his presence lives on in Bordeaux: there are streets and schools named after him, and a prominent cenotaph (pictured above) has been erected in the cemetery which was his resting place for 71 years. And, for almost 20 years, the bullring in the suburb of Floirac was known as Plaza de Goya. The homage lives on in the apartment block which has been built in its place: the building is called Résidence Plaza de Goya. Finally, the Cervantes Institute has mapped out a Goya walk in Bordeaux, and this fine video clip gives a taste of what can be seen on the route:
- Find them: statue on Place du Chapelet, former residence at 57 Cours de l'Intendance, and the cenotaph in Cimetière de la Chartreuse.
- Further information available in this fascinating Cervates Institute interview with Guadalupe Echevarría, director of the École d'Enseignement Supérieur d'Art de Bordeaux (in Spanish with French-language subtitles):