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Last updated: 1/25/2017
Home / Gallery Tour 1 / "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" / Gallery Tour 2 / Artists
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Francisco Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828): Caprichos 51-59

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), They spruce themselves up (Caprichos 51, Delteil 88, Harris 86). 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. Goya commented: "This business of having long nails is so pernicious that it is forbidden even in witchcraft." Image size: 215x150mm. Price: $2000.
What a tailor can do! (Caprichos 52, D. 89, H. 87). 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, "How often can some ridiculous creature be suddenly transformed into a presumptuous coxcomb who is nothing but appears to be much. That is what can be done by the ability of a tailor and the stupidity of those who judge things by their appearance." Of course many viewers of art also tend to judge things by their appearance. How foolish of us? If not by their appearance, how should we judge artworks? By their meaning? Image size: 215x150mm. Price: $2000.
What a golden beak! (Caprichos 53, D. 90, H. 88). 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, "This looks a bit like an academic meeting. Perhaps the parrot is speaking about medicine? However don't believe a word he says. There is many a doctor who has a "golden beak" when he is talking, but when he comes to prescriptions, he's a Herod; he can ramble on about pains, but can't cure them; he makes fools of sick people and fills the cemeteries with skulls." Image size: 215x150mm. Price: SOLD.
The shamefaced one (Caprichos 54, D. 91, H. 89). 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, "There are men whose faces are the most indecent parts of their whole bodies and it would be a good thing if those who have such unfortunate and ridiculous faces were to put them in their breeches" Image size: 215x150mm. Price: $2000.
Until death (Caprichos 55, D. 92, H. 90). 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, "She's quite right to make herself look pretty. It is her seventy-fifth birthday, and her little girl friends are coming to see her." Image size: 215x150mm. Price: $2000.
To rise and to fall (Caprichos 56, D. 93, H. 91). 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, "Fortune maltreats those who court her. Efforts to rise she rewards with hot air and those who have risen she punishes by downfall." R. S. Johnson, pointing to two early texts, interprets the figure who has risen as Manuel Godoy, Queen Maria-Luisa's lover and Spain's first minister, and the falling figures as Goya's friends who lost their positions at Godoy's hands. He also sees the figure raising "Godoy" as Lust. Given the cloven hooves for feet, one could argue that it is indeed Lust not fortune who raises up "Godoy"; given the prominence of the giant figure with cloven hooves, one could argue that it is he who is central, not the rising or falling figures and see him more traditionally as demonic, which might better fit the context of the images of witches in which this work occurs. The moral then would be that those who seek good fortune by turning to evil to raise themselves up are destined in the end to fall. Image size: 215x150mm. Price: $2000.
La Filiacion / Famaily background (Caprichos 57, D. 93, H. 91). 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, "Here is a question of fooling the fiancé by letting him see, through her pedigree, who were the parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great great-grandparents of the young lady. And who is she? He will find that out later." In Caprichos 6, a man and a woman both in masks peer at each other, but have no interest in finding out who they are looking at since they are more concerned with keeping up their own deceptive appearances. In Caprichos 7, a man peers through a monocle at an unmasked woman, but fails to "know what she is" because he lacks "judgment and experience of the world." Here the situation is different: "the gentleman would like very much to know what kind of woman his potential bride is, but her deception and his willingness to rise in status by marrying well will make him fail in happiness if he proceeds with this marriage." Image size: 215x150mm. Price: $2000.
Swallow it, dog (Caprichos 58, D. 94, H. 92). 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 lives among men will be Irremediably vexed. If he wants to avoid it he will have to go and live in the mountains, but when he is there he will discover that to live alone is vexatious." Playing upon the dual meanings of the word "jeringar"—to syringe and to vex—Goya suggests that if one tries to avoid vexation by becoming a hermit, he will still discover that in his little world of man he will still be vexed by his own thoughts and emotions. The cloaked and hooded men surrounding him in clerical outfits suggest that in this world there is no escape from vexation. Image size: 215x150mm. Price: $2000.
And still they don't go! (Caprichos 59, D. 95, H. 93). 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, "He who does not reflect on the inconstancy of fortune sleeps peacefully surrounded by dangers; he does not know how to avoid the danger which threatens him, and there is no misfortune which does not surprise him." Image size: 215x150mm. Price: $2500.

For a brief essay on this piece, see James Reigel, "Los Caprichos, Goya's Wings," in Madness, Melancholy, and the Limits of the Self: Studies in Culture, Law, and the Sacred, Vol. 3, ed. Andrew D. Weiner and Leonard V. Kaplan (Madison: University of Wisconsin Law School, 1996), 103-106.

Spaightwood Galleries, Inc.

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