His vision of the "Third Estate":
The glorification of useful labour

Goya's vision of common people is openly positive when he deals with hard working, suffering workers

Goya's vision of common people is openly positive when he deals with hard working, suffering workers.

In his prints and drawings Goya appears to agree with the liberals who felt sympathy for the farm workers and craftsmen whose hard work kept the aristocracy, the State and the clergy in a comfortable life-style. Capricho no. 42, titled Thou who canst not, shows two farm workers carrying two leasure-loving donkeys on their backs. Donkeys in Goya's iconography represent the nobility who have done nothing to deserve their high station. In Capricho no. 120 Goya asks a farm worker through the title, Will you never know what you're carrying on your back?.

However, Goya is as biting about the likely outcome of any peasant rebellion as he is about their exploitation. With very Aragonese realism he depicts a farmhand who, shouting furiously, hurls his hoe to the ground. The title says: You won't get anywhere by shouting.

Goya was not taken in by the virtues of the commoners. With sharp caricatures he criticised the idle, those who found refuge in alcohol, (C56, DC79, DC77), villainous characters, violent men, the arrogant and gossips. In these prints Goya showed with his brush that other class who, along with the parasites of the aristocracy, sucked the life out of those who tried to create wealth and happiness for all.

Thus, in his work Goya reveals himself as an Enlightenment bourgeois. Only work and intelligence can redeem a man, because it is only by means of them that one can buy the benevolence of the powerful and attain the uncertain but useful immunity that patronage can give. Another aim is to justly and honestly achieve the respect of one's fellow men. Hard work ennobles a man, even when he is poor. Examples of this are Blind worker (DEd144) or The poor man who makes use of his time (DC11). According to Goya, even the lowliest tasks can give one dignity, as can be seen in his drawings and cartoons of lively, hard-working women washing and hanging clothes up to dry (The washerwomen DE37)


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

Francisco Javier García Marco

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