Francisco de Goya (Fuendetodos, 1746) descended from Basque ancestry, as is widely known, Manuel Laborde being who first detailed the painter’s genealogical data. Subsequent studies have added to this initial contribution.
Goya is one of many Basque surnames largely widespread throughout the geography of Euskal Herria and Latin American countries. The surname Goya achieved worldwide fame, for it belonged to the great painter Francisco de Goya.
Francisco de Goya’s Basque descent comes from his great-great-grandfather, Domingo de Goya, born in Mantxolatxiki Farmhouse in Zerain (Gipuzkoa). A stonemason by trade, he was commissioned for the construction of the church tower of Fuentes de Jiloca (Aragon).
This is a story that came about due to the confluence of two circumstances distant in time and resulting in Francisco de Goya’s Basque ancestry.
In the municipality of Zerain there is a mountain called Oa or Oamendi, also known as Harripillata. It owes its name to its morphology by virtue of the shapeless blocks of red sandstone that surface and whose darker streaks make it unique and particularly beautiful to ornament the facades of stately buildings and church towers.
As of the end of the Middle Ages, that above led to the emergence of craftsmen who cut the stone from the mountain, shaped and carved it for its use in building. They stayed in neighbouring farmhouses, and especially during the winter, when chores around the farm were fewer, the young men of the usually large families would join them up in the mountain to learn the craft. So Zerain earned the reputation for being the cradle of master stonemasons.
The second circumstance dates back from the times when wood was substituted for stone and stonework in the construction of stronger churches in towns and villages. The nave of the church was built, whereupon savings were made again towards decorations, altars, sacristies, bell towers, and more.
That was the case with the village of Fuentes de Jiloca, located close to Calatayud, where an appeal was made to the stonemasons from Zerain willing to move there to build the church tower. A young man from Mantxolatxiki Farmhouse named Domingo de Goya y Echeandia (b. 1578) responded to the call, among others, and established residence therein.
The Goya lineage continued until Domingo’s great-grandson, the stonemason José de Goya, married Gracia Lucientes, a native of Fuendetodos, in Zaragoza. Husband and wife were spending some time in the mentioned village when their son was born on 30 March 1746. That son would later become the famed artist Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, who towards the end of his life went into voluntary exile in the French city of Bordeaux, where he died at 82 years of age. He was a young child when the family returned to Zaragoza, where the future genius grew up. Soon after finishing his childhood studies, he took up drawing. It would seem his father’s art and skill influenced his fondness for painting.
Francisco de Goya was aware of his Basque descent, so it has been said. His house of birth still stands, thanks to its acquisition by Ignacio Zuloaga precisely to preserve it.
José Zufiaurre – Etniker Gipuzkoa – Etniker Euskalerria Groups
Translated by Jaione Bilbao – Language Department – Labayru Fundazioa
Illustrations provided by the author.