An image of The sleep of reason produces monsters

Francisco de Goya Y Lucientes

(Spain 1746 – 1828)

The sleep of reason produces monsters

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.

etching and aquatint
21.5 x 15.0 cm platemark; 30.4 x 20.8 cm sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased 1978
Accession number
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