Goya’s faces, and Munch’s

In January 2018, the Argumentative Old Git wrote about Goya’s Self-portrait with Dr. Arrieta:

It is a striking image, but what fascinates me most are the other faces on the canvas – shadowy faces, as if vaguely glimpsed, behind the dominating figures of the doctor and his patient. Who are they?

At least three hypotheses are discussed in the post and the comments to it.

Some two months ago, I saw one of these images at a Munch exhibition (the Munch museum in Oslo is closed for renovation so its holdings are on a world tour). I’m not sure which – most likely this pastel work. Also see this post by Victor A. Schramm for more authorial variations on the same deathbed subject, and a discussion of the shapes on the wall.

My first reaction was to call them simply faces, just like Goya’s faces, but visible to the sick/dying/dead human. Schramm sees them a little differently:

…the pastel version from 1893 replaces the pattern of wallpaper for morbid, grotesque heads and skulls lining the wall. These figures seem to taunt the dying man as he crosses the threshold into death, many of them amused and smiling.

Clinical morbidity is not all there is to the artist: Munch’s late works and selfies are amazing and enjoyable, as I’ve discovered.

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