Contra el bien general [Against the Common Good], plate 71 from Los Desastres de la Guerra
1810 - circa 1820 (p. 1863)
23.5 cm x 27.7 cm (9 1/4 in. x 10 7/8 in.)
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (aka Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes)
(Fuendetodos, Spain, 1746 - 1828, Bordeaux, France)
Medium and Support:
Etching and burnisher
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Jonathan Bober, 1989
Goya began the drawings for this series of eighty prints, Los desastres de la guerra, in 1808, the year French forces invaded Spain and began their brutal six-year occupation of the country. The first plate was created in 1810 with the series completed and put in definitive order in 1820. Rather than the grand scale and heroic sweep of battle or the valor and bravery of the combatants, the Desastres present vignettes of deliberately awkward, fragmentary, and unstable composition and highlight the suffering of common people.
This series is Goya’s most realistic; its close focus and unflinching record break with traditional artistic representations of war and presage documentary photography. Refusing to make any aspect of warfare attractive or to find any consolation for its effects, the Desastres anticipate the character of twentieth-century responses to war, from Expressionism to Existentialism. Because of the controversial nature of its content, Goya did not publish it during his lifetime. The first edition was issued in 1863, thirty-five years after Goya’s death.
The last ten plates of the Desastres return to the fantastic imagery and satirical tone of the Caprichos. In this, the first of the group, a monk with monstrous wings writes in a great ledger. With his back turned to the pleading figures in the background, he raises an imperious finger to instruct their patience. Clerics played a prominent role in the hated bureaucracy of Ferdinand VII, king of Spain during the period.