Las rinde el sueño [Sleep Overcomes Them], plate 34 from Los Caprichos
31.7 cm x 21.2 cm (12 1/2 in. x 8 3/8 in.)
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (aka Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes)
(Fuendetodos, Spain, 1746 - 1828, Bordeaux, France)
Medium and Support:
Etching and burnished aquatint
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Teaching Collection of Marvin Vexler, '48, 1989
Francisco de Goya’s etchings are a monument in the history of printmaking. It was in the more private world of these prints that the artist’s personality was given free rein, the comment upon his own time was most acerbic, and the indifference to artistic convention was most striking. Goya’s four major series—the fantastically ironic Caprichos, the fiercely candid Desastres de la Guerra, the formally and morally ambiguous Tauromaquia, and the surreal Disparates—are fundamental works of modern art.
The Caprichos is the earliest and best-known series. Its eighty plates weave popular imagery, folklore, and the residue of Baroque allegory into fanciful images that mock society’s beliefs and habits. Their captions, also devised by the artist, are equally personal and usually sarcastic. With no appreciable tradition of printmaking in Spain, Goya drew inspiration from both British satire and Giambattista Tiepolo’s allegories. But the imagination and subversiveness of the Caprichos, their privileging of individual sensibility over any other artistic consideration, was his own genius. Showing four figures submerged in darkness, perhaps that of a prison, this plate is one of the few unleavened by humor and undirected toward specific comment. Redolent of the iconography of Christ on the Mount of Olives, but with no angel to comfort, the scene becomes thoroughly existential.