Criticism of aristocratic vices

Goya does not show complete rejection of the aristocracy, he only denounces the bad habits and vices characteristic of this class



Will the disciple be wiser?
(Caprichos)
As with the clergy, Goya does not show complete rejection of the aristocracy, he only denounces the bad habits and vices characteristic of this class. In his graphical work, however, he did not pay nearly as much attention to the aristocracy as he did to the clergy.

It is easy to make out what Goya thought about this matter from his work, centred as it was in a set of values common to the Spanish literary and artistic tradition: true nobility is based on virtue and personal merit and is not simply a consequence of inheritance and lineage.

His vision was clearly reformist and was undoubtedly based on the example set by many of his friends amongst the Enlightenment nobility. An aristocrat should not rest on the laurels of his lineage, he should justify his exalted position by merit and social utility, by the pursuit of self-knowledge and self-control and the cultivation of the self as a cultured individual. This was a task that underpinned Enlightenment thinking and values.

Amongst the vices that Goya caricatured, the following stand out most clearly

  • Idleness

  • Pride, in the form of the cult of genealogy. Goya sharply criticised this in his prints of noble donkeys, with the pithy title of one print in particular, A descendent of donkeys, a donkey he shall be. (C39)

  • Vanity, which led to spending more money on fine clothing than on a decent diet (DC5).

  • The perverse education of many members of the nobility, which turned them into parasites incapable of controlling their instincts (C4).

  • Their contempt for culture and their ignorance (C46, C47).


Francisco Javier García Marco


Bibliography

Alcalá Flecha, Roberto. Literatura e ideología en el arte de Goya. Zaragoza: Diputación General de Aragón, 1988.

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