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Prints - Spanish 17th - 19th Century

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Quien lo creyera! [Who Would Have Thought It!], plate 62 from Los Caprichos

1797-1799 (p. 1855)
18th century
31.2 cm x 21.3 cm (12 5/16 in. x 8 3/8 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, burnished aquatint and burin
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Jonathan Bober, 1996
Accession Number: 1996.235

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.

Belief in witches and witchcraft was the subject of ten successive plates in the Caprichos. This, the first of the group, shows two witches wrestling as they plummet down toward the outstretched claws of an enormous cat. Goya’s text draws larger lessons: “See here is a terrible quarrel as to which of the two is more of a witch. Who would have thought that the screechy one and the grizzly one would tear each other’s hair in this way? Friendship is the daughter of virtue. Villains may be accomplices but not friends.”

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