From 1775 to 1791 Goya painted, on commission for Charles III of Spain, sixty-three oil-on-canvas paintings which later served as bases for tapestries at the Royal Court in Madrid. At first glance, painting The Straw Manikin seems like a cheerful everyday life scene, which is just what the king wanted. Four young women are dressed in Spanish fashion, they are laughing, their eyes bright and cheeks rosy. Simple outdoor game took on a sinister mood, which shows the way Goya saw world. Take a look at the straw doll. It doesn’t seem very happy, does it? Its glaze look contrasts the cheeks which are bright pink in true Rococo manner. His hands hang limply, his legs lean in different directions. All in all, he is powerless in this cruel female game. If you take a look at the preliminary sketch below, you’ll notice the different position of the straw manikin; he appears to be enjoying his flight, while in this finished version he is being thrown into the air against his will. He doesn’t complain though, he’s passive and resigned. In this scene, Goya shows us what strong minded women can do to weak men.
This painting is a typical example of Goya’s early works; charming and lively with soft colour scheme, but under the surface something wicked emerges. Bright colours can also be interpreted as a sign of Goya’s prosperity, as he was climbing the social ladder at the time. His later works are deprived of the cheerful element, and are much darker, showing all the evils that people are surrounded with.