Criticism of the Inquisition
and censorship

Censure of the Inquisition's methods is a constant feature of the Caprichos and of Album C

There was no remedy (Caprichos)
Censure of the Inquisition's methods is a constant feature of the Caprichoss and of Album C. In both works one sees several prints and drawings of downcast penitents wearing the tabard and the cone-shaped hat of the heretic or sinner, standing on the scaffold, in court or in gaol.

A title at the bottom of each work explains why they have been condemned. The triviality of their crimes contrasts strongly with the shame and desperation that can be seen on their faces.

A stark contrast is set up between what the viewer reads in the title and what he sees in the print: the title may be caustic but Goya's vision is one of pity and horror. In the notes attached to the prints Goya shows a cold contempt for the severity of the punishments meted out for such harmless crimes. On some occasions, the explanatory titles become open condemnations of torture (DC108) and the destruction of innocent families (DC104).

When the accused are doctors and scientists, prisoners of conscience, Goya's attitude is one of admiration. However, his sardonic humour is capable at times of blaming them for their predicament. For example in drawing no. 96 from Album C, he mocks the accused with the statement For not having written for fools.

The Inquisition is criticised in the strongest terms by Goya as a brutal, absurd organisation, which, in its efforts to quell civil disobedience, created obstacles to a freer society. Some of the causes of 'penitence' and punishment are:

  • Petty witchcraft : That dust (C23), There was no remedy (C24), For knowing how to make mice (DC87), For not having legs (DC90).
  • Conversion: For having been born a Jew (DC88)
  • Being foreigners or protestants: For having been born elsewhere (DC85), For speaking a foreign tongue (DC89)
  • Violations of anti-Enlightenment censorship: For having brought diabolical tales from Bayonne (DC86)
  • Bestialism: For loving a donkey (DC92).
  • Science: For discovering the motion of the earth (DC94), Don't eat, great Torrigiano! (DC100), Zapata, your glory will be eternal! (DC1909), For not having written for fools (DC96).

See also:


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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