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Despacha, que dispiértan [Be Quick, They Are Waking Up], plate 78 from Los Caprichos

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Despacha, que dispiértan [Be Quick, They Are Waking Up], plate 78 from Los Caprichos

1797-1799 (p. 1799)
18th century
30.5 cm x 20.4 cm (12 in. x 8 1/16 in.)

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (aka Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes) (Fuendetodos, Spain, 1746 - 1828, Bordeaux, France) Primary

Object Type: print
Artist Nationality: Europe, Spanish
Medium and Support: Etching and burnished aquatint
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Leo Steinberg Collection, 2002
Accession Number: 2002.1428

The earliest of Goya’s four major print series by more than decade, the Caprichos were created in 1797-98. Free inventions, thus “caprices,” their eighty plates comment upon the tension betweensociety and the individual, between ideals and realities, between belief and reason. Injustice, hypocrisy, and superstition are Goya’s principal targets; caricature, satire, and sarcasm his favorite weapons. In addition to the printed titles, a manuscript in the Prado Museum purportedly written by Goya elucidates the meaning of individual prints. The imagery of the Caprichos is rich with references, from established iconography to folk literature, songs, and sayings. But the series is above all original in the modern sense: the product of an individual and unfettered imagination. The Caprichos are also the first great demonstration of the expressive possibilities of aquatint, which had previously been used for reproducing the appearance of drawings. First published in 1799 they along with the Tauromaquia were the only series released during the artist’s lifetime. Retaining the plates, the Royal Academy in Madrid issued eleven more editions between 1855 and 1937, making the Caprichos the most widely circulated and best known of Goya’s prints.

Three rather earnest and unthreatening goblins work through the night to complete their tasks in a kitchen. Ridiculing belief in the supernatural, Goya explains, “The goblins are the most industrious and obliging people there are. As the maid keeps them happy, they scour the pot, cook the vegetables, wash up, sweep and hush the child. It has often been disputed whether they are devils or not; don’t let us deceive ourselves. Devils are those who spend their time doing harm, or hindering others from doing good, or doing nothing at all.”

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