Francisco de Goya lived in a turbulent period of Spanish history: the infamous Inquisition was still in operation, while Enlightenment ideas were beginning to permeate Spain. Elsewhere, the American and French Revolutions were raging. Goya's career evolved dramatically from its early stages, when he made tapestries for the court, to the shocking ‘dark paintings’ of his later years. There are several explanations for the change, one being Goya's mysterious illness, about which there has been much speculation and which left him weakened, deaf and melancholic. He was also affected by the unfolding military conflict in his country, which he depicted in the Disasters of War.
The featured image belongs to Los Caprichos, a merciless commentary on social, political and religious hypocrisy. When Goya observed that ‘Imagination, deserted by reason, begets impossible monsters. United with reason, she is the mother of all arts, and the source of their wonders’, he appears to have been influenced by the work of Joseph Addison, which was being translated into Spanish during this period. In his essay ‘Pleasures of Imagination’ Addison stated that ‘when the brain is hurt by an accident, or the mind disordered by dreams or sickness, the fancy is overrun with wild, dismal ideas and terrified with a thousand hideous monsters of its own framing’.