Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 17461828)
Etching, burnished aquatint, and burin; 8 1/2 x 5 7/8 in. (21.5 x 15 cm)
Gift of M. Knoedler and Company, 1918 (18.64.12)
The groundwork for the emblematic pictorialization of human weakness and irrationality in the eighty etchings of the Caprichos was well laid in the ninety-four drawings of Album B (sixteen of which are in the Museum's collection). There are staged manifestations of superstitious beliefs, like the imagined power of a hanged man's teeth in this print, and such ludicrous spectacles as that of jackasses acting like gentlemen (to imply that the opposite is generally the rule). These images combine striking candor with a bold, free handling of the graphic media, made all the more remarkable by an unexpected delicacy in all details and sharp discipline in the compression of their compositions. The admirable balance between light and dark, tone and line, so readily apparent in the drawings, became a complex feat in the etchings, where shadows and veils of gloom were realized in calculated dustings of grainy aquatint. Thus Goya achieved a higher plane of accomplishment, artistically and technically, than any social commentator before his time.