Francisco de Goya was the Spanish court painter at Madrid under Carlos III and Carlos IV. In 1799, in an attempt to avoid royal disapproval, he secretly sold his set of eighty “caprices,” Los Caprichos, which were critical of the church and aristocracy. However, Goya’s royal patrons protected him in 1803 after he was denounced by the Inquisition.
This extraordinary collection of prints is generally considered one of the key turning points of Goya’s art. It is a satirical treatise on eighty of the prejudices and vices that most afflict society. His subjects included prostitution, superstition, the Inquisition, and the venality and abuse of power. As Goya explained, he chose subjects “from the multitude of follies and blunders common in every civil society, as well as from the vulgar prejudices and lies authorized by custom, ignorance, or interest.”
The title, Los Caprichos, suggests invention and fantasy. It denotes the promotion of the artist’s imagination over reality, invention over representation. A series of disparate visions of social and supernatural vice, these prints are at once innovative and rooted in convention. The etchings have their sources in folklore, especially witchcraft (then a subject of widespread fascination in educated Spanish circles), established satirical imagery, and allusions to contemporary literature.
In Pretty Teacher! an old witch transports a prostitute on a broomstick. The hovering owl locks in the artist’ s message: The word for owl, búho, was slang for prostitute.
animals; caricatures; education; elderly; girls; humor; night; rural; satire; sky; social commentary; text; witchcraft; women
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