Works on Paper


¿Porqué esconderlos? (Why Hide Them?)
Plate 30 of Los caprichos, 1797–99
Francisco de Goya (Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes) (Spain, 1746–1828)
Etching, aquatint, drypoint
Plate mark: 8 1/2 x 6 inches
Gift of Gordon Ray 1960-6-48

In the 80 plates of Los caprichos (Caprices), Francisco de Goya caricatured authority figures and exposed the follies of Spanish society. The images reflect a change in the artist's general outlook as well as his reaction against established academic teaching. Some historians have correlated this shift with an illness in 1793 that left Goya deaf. Satire and irony pervade his illustrations of vice and foolishness, such as alcoholism, greed, lechery, prostitution, superstition, and abuses by the church, nobility, and government. Each image bears Goya's handwritten title and commentary. ¿Porqué esconderlos? depicts onlookers laughing at an old bishop, and responds to the question posed in the title with the annotation "the answer is simple....Because he doesn't want to spend them, and doesn't spend them. Even though he's already eighty years old and won't live a month, he's afraid that he'll survive long enough to end up short of money. So mistaken are the calculations of avarice."

The Los caprichos series was first rendered as ink-wash and sanquine (red-chalk) drawings, which were then translated into masterly line etchings. On the plate, Goya laid out broad tonal areas of aquatint that created contrasts of mysterious shadow against luminous open spaces. Pointed tools were used to enhance lines and deepen shadows. Surviving proofs have shown that the drypoint and some of the aquatint deteriorated quickly with successive printings, even in the first edition.

Text by Mary Peterson Zundo, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2009