The titles in the Desastres de la guerra [Disasters of War] were not etched directly onto the metal plates. Instead, Goya wrote them by hand on the prints. Before leaving Spain for Bordeaux in 1824, Goya gave the prints to his friend the ilustrado [enlightened person] Juan Agustín Ceán Bermúdez (Gijón, 1749 – Madrid, 1829). For the 1863 printing, prepared by the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando [San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts], the titles were engraved in each one of the copper plates without modifying the author’s handwritten text.
In ¡Duro es el paso! [It’s a Hard Step!] a man with bound hands is being taken to the gallows. Two executioners pull him up the steps backwards. A friar tries to comfort him through liturgical gestures but is unable to attract the prisoner’s attention, whose head hangs low and faces the ground in a plea for mercy. In the background the bodies of two executed prisoners are visible. Beyond them several men prepare another prisoner for the gallows. Goya depicts the entire sequence of an execution: from preparation to the swaying of lifeless bodies.