Francisco de Goya, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la razón produce monstruos)

Date: 1797-99
Technique: Etching, aquatint, drypoint and burin, 21.5 cm x 15 cm

Plate 43 of Los Caprichos

The series Los Caprichos is probably Goya's best known. Comprising eighty plates, Goya privately published the series, which was first advertised for sale in the Spanish newspaper Diario de Madrid in 1799 as being a criticism of "human errors and vices," although the subjects are often obscure and interpretation purposely difficult. Lampooning both political and religious figures, Goya soon found it diplomatic to present the original plates to the king for his Calcografia, in exchange for a pension for his son.

The Sleep of Reason is a self-portrait of the artist, surrounded by demonic-looking animals. It was intended as the frontispiece for the series, but Goya soon thought better of this, probably because the subject related too closely to two plates in Rousseau's 1793 Paris edition of Philosophie at a time when the very name of Rousseau was anathema to religious and political leaders in Spain. Instead, Goya created another, more traditional, self-portrait as the frontispiece and buried The Sleep of Reason well within the series, as plate 43.

In Los Caprichos Goya begins to push the boundaries of the intaglio process to achieve a sense of ambiguous space coupled with a modernist sensibility. This series grew out of Goya's developing sense of isolation, the result of a protracted illness he suffered in 1792­/93, leaving him totally deaf. This, along with his difficult position as court painter to King Carlos IV at a time when he was becoming increasingly dedicated to the cause of the Spanish peasants, left him feeling compromised. Relying on a variety of influences, Los Caprichos served as a coded expression of the artist's growing involvement in Madrid's political milieu.

Source 1

Source 2

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