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An image of The sleep of reason produces monsters by Francisco de Goya Y Lucientes

Francisco de Goya Y Lucientes

(Spain 1746 – 1828)

The sleep of reason produces monsters
Alternative title:
El sueño de la razón produce monstruos
Media category
Materials used
etching and aquatint
First edition of 1799

21.5 x 15.0 cm platemark; 30.4 x 20.8 cm sheet

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased 1978
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

Plate 43 from 'Los caprichos', first edition 1799

Somnolent or despairing, the crumpled human form which falls prey to vicious imaginings in this etching could also refer to the artist's introspection in the wake of a serious illness that left him deaf. It is certainly emblematic of the end of a rationalist century, and a harbinger of romanticism. Above all, however, 'The sleep of reason produces monsters' is an enigma, in keeping with the deliberate impenetrability of 'The capriccios', the series to which it belongs. Given the reactionary character of Goya's targets - including the Court and the Church - he did well to clothe his graphic attacks in strategic levels of strangeness. Even so, the threat of the Inquisition caused him to withdraw the series from circulation. Indisputably the supreme Spanish artist of his period, Goya was a tapestry designer, muralist, portraitist, history painter, printmaker and draughtsman. Prolific in all these media, he left a vast artistic legacy. Reason may have slept; Goya did not.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999.

Bibliography (7)

Nicholas Draffin (Curator), The bitten image: European etchings from the collection, Sydney, 1980, 10. no catalogue numbers

Nicolas Draffin, Three years on: a selection of acquisitions 1978-1981, 'Prints and Drawings - Australia, European and American', pg. 47-66, Sydney, 1981, 54, 55 (illus.).

Nicolas Draffin, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Prints & Drawings', pg. 109-124, Sydney, 1988, 117 (illus.).

Renée Free, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 108, 126 (colour illus.).

Kathryn Hendy-Ekers, Louise Chamberlin and Deryck Greenwood, Art-iculate: art for VCE units 1-4, 'The role and purpose of art', pg. 84-87, Port Melbourne, 2009, 84 (colour illus.). dated 1799

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Works on Paper', pg. 78-92, Sydney, 1999, 81 (illus.).

Irena Zdanowicz, Masters of emotion, Mornington, 2007, 50. 45

Exhibition history (4)

The Bitten Image: European etchings from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 Jul 1980–14 Sep 1980

Three years on: acquisitions 1978-81, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Oct 1981–01 Dec 1981

Masters of emotion: exploring the emotions from the old masters to the present, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Mornington, 20 Apr 2007–24 Jun 2007

European prints and drawings 1500-1900, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Aug 2014–02 Nov 2014

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