Narratives in the Body: Goya’s Los Caprichos


When I think about Goya, I think most often about the art he made for himself after 1792—his private, uncommissioned works. In November of that year, he collapsed from a terrible sickness that would leave him deaf for the rest of his life. When he recovered and began to paint and draw again, the world must have looked and felt different to him because his images are marked by a change—a new freedom and mystery that make it hard to say exactly what the pictures are about. His works seem to splinter meaning, sustain contradictions, and suspend themselves in an ambiguity so tantalizing I can’t stop looking at them. Los Caprichos, Goya’s series of eighty aquatint plates made a few years after his illness, are as dense and puzzling as any images I’ve ever seen. The experience of studying these prints and the savage, strange, tender creatures that inhabit them is like wandering around in the slightly warped landscape of a dream. I’m never sure exactly where I am in relation to them, and although the content of the prints is often disturbing, I don’t think this explains my disorientation.


Bestial Feature Horizon Line Nocturnal Creature Unconscious Mind Corporeal Transformation 
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Narr Atives in The Body: Goya’s Los Caprichos

  1. 1.
    Quoted in Anthony Hull, Goya: Man among Kings (New York: Madison Books, 1987), 79.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Quoted in Pierre Gassier, Juliet Wilson, and François Lachenal, Goya: Life and Work (Köln: Evergreen, Benedikt Taschen Verlag, 1971), 106.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Fred Licht, Goya (New York, London: Abbeville Press, 2001), 132.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Victor I. Stoichita and Anna María Coderch, Goya: The Last Carnival (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), 178.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ibid., 178.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Quoted in Hull, Goya, 97.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Stoichita and Coderch, Goya, 71–73.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Charles Baudelaire, The Mirror of Art: Critical Studies by Baudelaire, trans. Jonathan Mayne (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1956), 185–86.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul), 121.Google Scholar

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© Princeton Architectural Press 2005

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