On February 6, 1799, a Madrid newspaper advertised the sale of a series of eighty etchings by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746–1828), a court painter to the Spanish monarchy. The subject of these “caprichos” (caprices), or whimsical inventions, were “the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society.” Although the edition was a commercial failure—only 27 of the 240 sets sold—by the early nineteenth century Los Caprichos came to be recognized for its striking modernity. Bedeviled by the cryptic captions that accompany the prints, commentators have mined the series for coded political messages. Yet Goya’s satirical targets are many and include the powerful and the dispossessed alike. Animals play the parts of human fools; goblins visit the gullible by night; and winged creatures hover over cowering figures, including the artist himself.
During his lifetime Goya was known for his commissioned works, but his independently produced prints are arguably his greatest achievement. This focused exhibition from the Lunder Collection includes a bound volume of Los Caprichos, a new digital interface providing images of each of the etchings in the series, and a nineteenth-century commentary on the work accompanied by an English translation. Until October 28, 2018, the exhibition also featured Los Disparates, the Follies, also known by the posthumous title Los Proverbios, or the Proverbs.