Los Caprichos

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“Volavérunt” from Los Caprichos

Los Caprichos (Spanish, from Italian Capriccio , (carefree) mood, idea) is a socio-critical cycle by the Spanish painter and graphic artist Francisco de Goya that was created between 1793 and 1799 .

There are 80 sheets, which were created using a mixture of aquatint and traditional etching technique and which are considered to be Goya's key work, which contributed most to making Goya's name and art known throughout Europe. To this day, Goya's use of the aquatint is considered an outstanding example of etching technique.

The cycle appeared in 1799 with an edition of 270 copies, but was withdrawn from the market two days after the sale of only 27 copies for fear of reprisals (the Inquisition had begun).


In 1792 the court painter Goya fell seriously ill - speculations range from syphilis to lead poisoning - which led to lifelong deafness and also to a turning point in his artistic work. From then on Goya no longer concentrated on court life and its desire for representation, but developed an increasingly socially critical character and dealt with the political and social circumstances of his time. He retired from his public office and tried to sell his prints himself on the open market.

The dualism of reason and imagination - hallmarks of Capriccio - characterizes this first of his etching cycles, which Goya was 51 years old when it was created in 1797.


The papers address current problems: poverty, prostitution , superstition , arrogance of class, abuse of clerical authority by the inquisition and the brutality of maintaining power by the nobility and clergy.

In 1799 Goya announced the appearance of this series of 80 etchings under the title Caprichos in a Madrid daily newspaper . The carefree title of the series of pictures, which he presented as the product of creative imagination, did not suggest the relentless social criticism behind it. But as the moral images of contemporary society with numerous allusions and charged symbolism, “saturated with an erotic atmosphere and biting satire”, the cycle was considered extremely dangerous by contemporaries, so that Goya quickly stopped selling the sheets.

Many of Goya's contemporaries understood the Caprichos as direct satire and enjoyed identifying allegedly portrayed people. Goya, on the other hand, had denied that personal attacks were meant. Jan Kott , who sees parallels to the bestiary in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night 's Dream , interprets the cycle as an expression of animal-like sexuality and greed: everything is "touching, sucking, grasping, clutching". The men are hunchbacked and crippled, while the prostitutes sit “stiff and upright on high chairs, blasé and reluctant”, often “with an evil glint in their eyes” like in a showcase. In the frequently occurring figure of the donkey (which Goya often stands for the aristocracy) this greed is paired with stupidity. An elegantly dressed donkey is leafing through a stud book that only shows pictures of other donkeys. The title of the drawing, with which Goya makes fun of aristocrats addicted to tradition, is: "Back to his grandfather."

Going to press

In 1803 Goya offered the plates and the remaining prints to King Charles IV (1788–1808) with the request that his son be granted a pension. The king accepted, and the plates went to the Museo de Calcografía Nacional Madrid . Several series were pulled from the plates after Francisco de Goya's death. The first new edition appeared in 1850, the last reprint (12th edition) came out in 1937.


The most famous is sheet no. 43 entitled El sueño de la razón produce monstruos ( The sleep of reason gives birth to monsters, or the dream of reason gives birth to monsters ).

Los Caprichos in Music

By Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco , the cycle comes 24 Caprichos de Goya , which he composed for guitar and a selection from the 80 Caprichos by Goya translates musically 1,961th

In 1973 Reinhard Wolschina composed Five Caprichos for wind quartet and percussion and was inspired by five sheets of the cycle.

Los Caprichos are from Hans Werner Henze . Fantasia per orchestra . "Composed on 9 etchings from Goya's social satire of the same name (1796/98)".

See also


  • Francisco Goya y Lucientes: Caprichos. Introduced and Edited by Miroslav Mícko. Spring Books et al., London et al. 1958, All 80 sheets are printed and described.
  • Charles Harrison, Paul Wood (eds.): Art in theory. An anthology of changing ideas. Volume 1: 1648-1815. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford et al. 2000, ISBN 0-63120-064-9 , p. 975.
  • Helmut C. Jacobs: The sleep of reason. Goyas Capricho 43 in visual arts, literature and music. Schwabe, Basel 2006, ISBN 3-7965-2261-0 .
  • Sigrun Paas-Zeidler: Goya, etchings. Hatje Verlag, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-7632-2331-2 .

Web links

Commons : Los Caprichos  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Dr. Christoph Heinrich from the Hamburger Kunsthalle ( Memento of the original from May 28, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.hamburger-kunsthalle.de
  2. Jan Kott: Shakespeare today. New edition. Berlin, Cologne 213, p. 274 ff.
  3. Caprichos 1, 5–7, 10 f., 13, 16–18, 24, 27, 32 f., 37 f., 40, 43 f., 47, 53, 61, 68 and (without number) Sueno de la mentira y inconstantia
  4. Dirk Möller: Mario Castelnuovo-Tedescos 24 Caprichos de Goya. An introduction to : Guitar & Laute 3, 1981, 1, pp. 42-46.
  5. Reinhard Wolschina: Five Caprichos - after 5 drawings from "Los Caprichos" by Goya - for wind quartet and percussion (1973) . Ebert, Leipzig.
  6. 1. “The sleep of the mind creates monsters” (sheet no. 43), 2. “And they still do not go away” (sheet no. 59), 3. “Excellent” (sheet no. 38), 4. "Your grace is ... hm, I say, eh, take care! Or ...! "(Sheet No. 76), 5." It's about time "(Sheet No. 80)
  7. Ilja Stephan: Los Caprichos - Henze's orchestral fantasy based on Goya . iljastephan.de. Retrieved September 28, 2019.