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Last updated: 1/25/2017
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Francisco Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828):"The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters"

Goya’s Caprichos (1799) and Disasters of War (c. 1808-1814), Durer's Ship of Fools woodcuts (1494), David Deuchar’s etchings (1786) after Hans Holbein’s Dance of Death, John Martin’s Paradise Lost mezzotints (1823-25), Georges Rouault’s Miserere mixed-media intaglios (1922-1928), and Marc Chagall's Dead Souls (etching and drypoint, 1923-1927)

Caprichos 43, 1-5 / Caprichos 6-10 / Caprichos 11-17 / Caprichos18-24 / Caprichos 25-30 / Caprichos 31-36
Caprichos 37-42 / Caprichos 43-50 / Caprichos 51-59 / Caprichos 60-67 / Caprichos 68-75 / Caprichos 76-80

Disasters of War 1-11 / Disasters 12-22 / Disasters 23-33 / Disasters 34-43
Disasters 44-53 / Disasters 54-63 / Disasters 64-73 / Disasters 74-81

Proverbios and others
George Santayana famously said that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (in The Life of Reason, Vol. I: Reason in Common Sense). The question, of course, is which past are we supposed to remember, immediate, middle distance, ancient? And what are we to do with our memories? Let us begin with the memories depicted in Goya's great print series, Los Caprichos, the Disasters of War, and the Proverbios.

The eighty etchings that make up Goya’s most important series of prints, Los Caprichos (1799), have long been recognized as one of the supreme monuments of European art. Goya, royal painter to the kings of Spain during the late eighteenth-early nineteenth centuries, eventually died in exile, both of his major print series having been "donated" to the crown to protect him from the Inquisition. A believer in the potential power of reason, his works show what happens when reason is trampled underfoot by individual human follies and corrupt social customs. In these works Goya looks at his country and memorializes it as a monument to desperation, folly, arrogance, incompetence, and the need that some of his subjects have to try to control the uncontrollable. Spaightwood has a complete set (from the sixth edition—an edition we first saw presented in an exhibit of Goya’s works at the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany); we will show the entire series of 80: almost all in impressions from the sixth edition, but with a scattering of pieces from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th editions as well. We also include several impressions from the Disasters of War and one of the Proverbios.

In the Foreword to his edition of Goya's Complete Etchings, Aldous Huxley (whose Brave New World offers a fairly bleak view of the fates of men and women in a world ruled by monsters), summarized Goya's portrayal of his world in his "Later Works" (which include all of Goya's major etching series: "These creatures who haunt Goya's Later Works are inexpressibly horrible, with the horror of mindlessness and animality and spiritual darkness. And above the lower depths where they obscenely pullulate is a world of bad priests and lustful friars, of fascinating women whose love is a 'dream of lies and inconstancy,' of fatuous nobles and, at the top of the social pyramid, a royal family of half-wits, sadists, Messalinas and perjurers. The moral of it all is summed up in the central plate of the Caprichos [originally plate 1], in which we see Goya himself, his head on his arms, sprawled across his desk and fitfully sleeping, while the air above is peopled with bats and owls of necromancy and just behind his chair lies an enormous witch's cat, malevolent as only Goya's cats can be, staring at the sleeper with baleful eyes. On the side of the desk are traced the words, 'The dream [or 'sleep'] of reason produces monsters.'" While perhaps not the last words on the Caprichos, these offer a very good first response to the series, one that can only get richer and more complicated as we look again and yet again at the works.

"What a pity that the people should believe such nonsense," Goya remarks below in his note on Caprichos 12, Tooth hunting." What we see over and over in these etchings—and particularly in this grouping—is the ability of people to believe almost any nonsense, no matter how harmful to themselves or others. In these plates, Goya shows us what people will do for money: marry people they find physically disgusting, sell their daughters into unequal marriages to secure material goods for their families, or prey upon each other through violence or sorcery.

Select Bibliography: Rogelio Buendia Goya (NY: Arch Cape Press, 1990), Jean-François Chabrun, Goya: His Life and Work (NY: Tudor, 1965), Colta Ives & Susan Alyson Stein Goya in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995), Raymond Keaveney, Master European Paintings from the National Gallery of Ireland from Mantegna to Goya (Dublin: National Gallery Of Ireland, 1992), Fred Licht, Goya and the Origins of the Modern Temper in Art (NY: Harper & Row, 1983), Park West Gallery. Goya: Sleeping Giant (Southfield MI: Park West Gallery, n.d.), Alfonso E. Perez Sanchez, and Eleanor Sayre, Goya and the Spirit of the Enlightenment (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1989), Maurice Raynal, The Great Centuries of Painting: The Nineteenth Century. New Sources of Emotion from Goya to Gauguin (Geneva: Skira, 1951), Richard Schickel, The World of Goya 1746-1828 (NY: Time-Life Books, 1968), The Royal Academy of Arts in London, Goya and his times (London: Royal Academy, 1963), Janis A. Tomlinson, Goya in the Twilight of the Enlightenment (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), Juliet Wilson-Bareau & Manuela B. Mena Marqués, Goya: Truth and Fantasy. The Small Paintings (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994).

Works on Prints: The standard catalogue raisonnes of Goya's prints by Loys Delteil and Thomas Harris are both out of print. See Nigel Glendinning, Goya: La Década de los Caprichos. Retratos 1792-1804 (Madrid: Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Francisco, 1992), Verna Posever Curtis and Selma Reuben Holo, La Tauromaquia: Goya, Picasso and the Bullfight (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1986), Anthony H. Hull, Goya: Man Among Kings (NY: Hamilton Books, 1987), Aldous Huxley, ed., The Complete Etchings of Goya (NY: Crown Publishers, 1943; Huxley incorporates Goya's own comments on the Caprichos from a manuscript now in the Prado in Madrid, many of which I have incorporated in my descriptions), R. Stanley Johnson, Goya: Los Caprichos (Chicago: R.S. Johnson, 1992; Johnson usefully cites remarks of an early commentator on Goya from a manuscript preserved in the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, many of which I have incorporated in my descriptions), Elie Lambert, Goya: L'oeuvre grave (Paris: Alpina, n.d.), Roger Malbert, ed. Disasters of War: Callot, Goya, Dix (London: Cornerhouse Publications, 1998), Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez, & Julián Gállego, Goya: The Complete Etchings and Engravings (Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1995), Nicholas Stogdon, Francisco de Goya, Los Caprichos: Twenty Proofs and a New Census (London: N.G. Stogdon, Inc, 1988), Janis A. Tomlinson, Graphic Evolutions: The Print Series of Francesco Goya (NY: Columbia University Press, 1989).
Francisco Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828), The sleep of reason produces monsters (Caprichos 43, Delteil 80, Harris 78). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. Very good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. This is one of the most important prints in the history of European art. This was originally intended to be the first print in the Caprichos; in the final version it became plate 43, and served to introduce the second half of the series. Image size: 215x150mm. Price: SOLD.
They spin finely (Caprichos 44, D. 81, H. 79). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the first edition (300 impressions). Goya comments, "They spin finely and the devil himself will not be able to undo the warp which they contrive." Whether they represent the fates, witches, or bawds is not clear. Image size: 215x150mm. Price: $5000.
They spin finely (Caprichos 44, D. 81, H. 79). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A very good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, "They spin finely and the devil himself will not be able to undo the warp which they contrive." Image size: 215x150mm. Price: $2000.
There is plenty to suck (Caprichos 45, D. 82, H. 80). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, "Those´who reach eighty suck little children; those under eighteen suck grown-ups. It seems that man is born and lives to have the substance sucked out of him." Image size: 215x150mm. Price: SOLD.
Correction (Caprichos 46, D. 83, H. 81). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, "Without correction and censure one cannot get on in any faculty, and that of witchraft needs uncommon talent, application, maturity, submission, and doocility to the advice of the great Witch who directs the seminary of Barahona." Image size: 215x150mm. Price: $2000.
A gift for the master (Caprichos 47, D. 84, H. 82). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, "That is quite right; they would be ungrateful pupils not to visit their professor to whom they owe everything they know in their diaboloical science." Image size: 215x150mm. Price: $2000.
Tale-bearers—blasts of wind (Caprichos 48, D. 84, H. 83). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, "He is quite right to have his portrait painted; thus those who do not know him and have not seen him will know who he is." He is, of course, an ass! Image size: 215x150mm. Price: SOLD.
Hobgoblins (Caprichos 49, D. 85, H. 83). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, "Now this is another kind of people. Happy, playful, obliging; a little greedy, fond of playing practival jokes; but they are very good-natured little men." Contemporary references make it clear that priests and friars were commonly identified as hobgoblinis. Goya's commentary provides a cover against the Inquisition by suggesting a different identity for the "little men." Image size: 215x150mm.Price: $2000.
The Chinchillas (Caprichos 50, D. 86, H. 84). Original etching and aquatint, c. 1798. A good impression from the sixth edition (230 impressions). There were about 610 impressions in the first five editions. Goya comments, "He who hears nothing, knows nothing, and does nothing belongs to the numerous family of the Chinchillas, which has always been good for nothing." Contemporary references identify the Chinchilas as nobles: "Those idiots who pride themselves on their nobility, let themselves go to laziness and superstitionn. They close off their understanding with padlocks while they are grossly fed by ignorance." This plate offers a different perspective on the folly of geneological pride illustrated in plate 39. Instead of the earlier plate's self-satisfied and well-dressed ass, this one depicts the nobility as victims of their own pride living like madmen in their own prisons of ignorance, clearly unfit to play any role in the nation. Image size: 215x150mm. Price: SOLD.

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