The Sleep of Reason

I recently ran across Francisco Goya’s 1799 etching, El sueño de la razón produce monstruos: “the sleep of reason produces monsters.”

The piece is housed by the Met, where it is described as follows:

This is the best known image from Goya’s series of 80 aquatint etchings published in 1799 known as ‘Los Caprichos’ that are generally understood as the artist’s criticism of the society in which he lived. Goya worked on the series from around 1796-98 and many drawings for the prints survive. The inscription on the preparatory drawing for this print, now in the Prado Museum in Madrid, indicates that it was originally intended as the title page to the series. In the published edition, this print became plate 43, the number we can see in the top right corner. Nevertheless, it has come to symbolise the overall meaning of the series, what happens when reason is absent. Various animals including bats and owls fly above the sleeping artist, and at the lower right a lynx watches vigilantly alerting us to the rise of monstrous forces that we are able to control when sleep descends.

It feels deeply appropriate for modern times, an apt critique of our current world.

The sleep of reason produces monsters.

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