The Caprichos

(Series of 80 pictures)

The first group, The Caprichos, published in 1799, coincided with the grave illness that he contracted towards the end of the 1790s. A disease which left its mark in the form of complete deafness for the rest of his life.It was the first series in which the artist was allowed to work in complete freedom, without the servitude of commissioned work, and in which his imagination was given free rein. He used etchings, aquatint and burin.The series took the form of two albums. The Sanlúcar Album or Album A (1796-1797) was completed during his stay at the Duchess of Alba's estate in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cadiz province). The second is known as the Madrid Album or Album B. In these he produced drawings and made notes in ink and wash, which were later passed onto metal sheet. 113 preparatory drawings have also been preserved, which clearly show their relationship with the albums.

80 prints were produced in 1799 and were advertised for sale in the Gaceta de Madrid on 6th February as " a collection of prints of capricious matters, created and printed in the form of etchings by don Francisco de Goya". In a long introductory text the author justified his work by affirming that painting could also be a vehicle for the censure of "human errors and vices" in the same way as poetry is. He also defended the creative capacity of the artist as an opponent of "servile copiers". At the end of the text appears "For sale in the calle del Desengaño, no.1, the shop of liqueurs and perfumes, price for 80 prints: 320 reales".

The highly critical nature of the Caprichos alerted the Inquisition, and for fear of possible consequences Goya immediately withdrew them from sale. Goya offered the 80 plates and the unsold prints to the King, which appear in the royal inventory in 1803. Goya called his prints " capricious affairs which attempted to ridicule, to upbraid prejudice, imposture and hypocrisy and other evils which have been hallowed by time". The first thirty six prints are representations of love and prostitution, along with the bad manners of children, marriages of convenience, maternal cruelty, avarice, the greed of friars, smuggling, etc. The prints from 37 to 42 revolve around the theme of stupidity. From the 43rd print onwards there is an abundance of witches, goblins, friars and devils.

There are three commentaries, two of them in Goya's handwriting that are kept in the Museo del Prado (antigua colección Cardera), in the Biblioteca Nacional and in the Colección Ayala. In each one there is a clarification of the message that Goya chose to represent in the form of footnotes. The Caprichos spread quickly and were soon known of outside Spain. They became the symbol of the Goyaesque style, and demonstrated a new way of representing reality. A way that is more expressive, fresher. A way that was to find its echo amongst the artists of the 19th century. The end of the cold, artificial prints of neo-Classicism had come.

Scan the index of Caprichos with the titles of the 80 pictures or download directly the thumbnails.


Gassier, P. Dibujos de Goya : Los Albumes. Friburgo, 1973.

Gassier, P. Dibujos de Goya : Estudios para grabados y pinturas. Friburgo, 1975.

Mangiante, P. J. Goya e l'Italia. Roma, 1992, pag. 154 y ss.

1. Francisco Goya y Lucientes, Painter
2. The say `I will'
and give their hand
to the first coming.
3. Here comes the bogey-man
4. Nanny's boy
5. Two of a kind
6. Nobody knows anybody
7. Even so he cannot make her out
8. They carried her off!
9. Tántalo.
10. Love and death
11. Lads, getting on with the job
12. Hunting for teeth

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