Goya ceased to paint popular subjects as cartoons for
tapestries after about 1790, he continued from time to
time to paint distinct groups of pictures of the everyday.
Occasionally these suggest that some grander decorative
scheme may have been projected. The Water Carrier, usually
dated to between 1808 and 1812, and its small companion
The Knife Grinder are connected both stylistically and
in conception with the very large canvas The Forge. Much
darker than his earlier tapestry designs, these present
heroically-posed close-ups of workers. Their paint fracture
is redolent of the forceful, broad handling of his earlier
San Antonio frescoes, Goya using a palette knife to apply
rich blacks and others. Possibly related to this series
are Old Women Looking at a Mirror and Young Women reading
a Letter, which are both substantial canvases, but are
satires on vanity rather than celebrations of worker-heroes,
and seem in essence to be larger versions of subjects
dealt with in the earlier Caprichos."
Frank Milner, Goya, published 1995 by the Bison
Group, page 22.
The Old Ones we again encounter mistress and servant
this time in a frightfully decayed state. Syphilis has
corrupted the face of the maid into a hideously deformed
snout, while the mistress, haggard and toothless but rouged
and coiffed in the latest fashion, looks on with rheumy
eyes as page after page of a scandal journal is turned
for her amusement by her companion. Behind the two women,
a winged old man wields a broom aloft, ready to sweep
this human offal away."
Fred Licht, Goya, published by Abbeville Press,
Pages 268 - 269
pair of crones are
examining, if not exactly admiring, themselves in a hand
mirror. On the back is the sardonic inscription ¿Que´
tal? ("How's things?"). No good, it seems. The
old bat on the right, a chapfallen dame in a beautifully
light-struck muslin robe of pale blue and yellow, fiddles
with what appears to be a powder compact; in her dyed-blond
hair is a jeweled arrow, of the kind that Queen Maria
Luisa was wearing in the Family of Charles IV. (This similarity
gave rise to the idea that she is Goya's horrid caricature
of Maria Luisa herself, but there seems to be no real
basis for that. Diamante arrows were a common kind of
hairpin.) Artifacts last; their owners decay. Her companion
is a horror, a death's head, her nose eaten away by the
pox, her hands like claws, her lips and eyes raddled with
caked incrustations of lipstick and kohl, her teeth discolored.
Rising behind them, also peering at their reflected images,
is the ultimate victor of this colloquy: Father Time,
with his shag of gray hair and extended wings, grasping
not a scythe but a broom with which he will sweep the
crones away like the dust they are so nearly are."
Hughes, Goya, published by Alfred Knopf, page 348.