The portrait is the first print in Goya’s series of eighty etchings titled Los Caprichos and published in Madrid in 1799. The prints deal broadly with superstition and human folly. They were the artist’s personal declaration that the chains of social backwardness had to be broken if humanity was to advance, attesting to his political liberalism and his contempt for ignorance and intellectual oppression. Goya’s sardonic expression and elegant attire provide a compelling introduction to the series, announcing him as the creator while revealing the gravity of his personality and his intentions.
Inscription: Lettered on plate with number '1' and title 'Franco. Goya e Lucientes, Pintor'
Marking: Annotated verso, in graphite: 'Coll. John Singer Sargent'
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," August 8, 2017–November 20, 2017.
Blas, Matilla & Medrano 1999, no.1; Harris 36.II.2 (possibly a pre-edition proof although there are no distinguishing characteristics)
Le Peintre-Graveur Illustré (XIXe et XXe siècles). vol. 15, Paris, 1922.
Tomás Harris Goya: Engravings and Lithographs Vol. I: Text and Illustrations; Vol.II: Catalogue Raisonné. Oxford, 1964.
Colta Ives, Susan Alyson Stein Goya in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., September 12 - December 31. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1995.
Javier Blas, José Manuel Matilla, José Miguel Medrano El libro de los Caprichos. Francisco de Goya: Dos siglos de interpretaciones (1799-1999). Catálogo de los dibujos, pruebas de estado, láminas de cobre y estampas de la primera edición. Madrid, 1999.