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Hapless Mother!
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
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Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de

Fuendetodos, Zaragoza (Spain), 1746 - Bordeaux (France), 1828

Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de See author's file

Hapless Mother!

1812 - 1814. Etching, Aquatint, Burnisher, Drypoint on ivory paper. Not on display

When Goya penciled his tiles on the complete set of prints that he gave to his friend, Ceán Bermúdez, each word was rigorously adapted to the composition and to the critical intentions with which it had been conceived. Such is also the case with this preparatory drawing, in which the woman’s condition as a mother is emphasized by the presence of her young daughter, while the adjective, hapless, which he adds to the print expresses the adversity that has led to her death. As one of a group of compositions dedicated to the horrors of famine, this work is uncommonly eloquent in conveying the fragility of life and the loneliness of the human condition. Women constitute the narrative thread of the famine prints, caring for and protecting their children, or carrying out acts of charity among the most needy. In Disaster 44, I saw it, Goya captured a mother’s concern for her child, emphasizing her valiant stance in the face of the cowardice of fleeing authorities. Beginning with print number 48, however, the tragic drama of maternity in the face of life’s adversity becomes more intense. In a manner that recalls religious Madonnas, mothers appear with children on their laps and suffering expressions that bring out the tragic situation, culminating with the presence of children left to fend for themselves after their mothers’ death. Such is the case in the present composition, where a woman’s lifeless body is being carried away by three men. Goya masterfully relates the figures in this composition through their gazes, leading our eye from the young mother’s beautiful head to the heartbreaking sobs of her daughter. A comparison of the preparatory drawing with the completed print reveals one of the methods most frequently employed by Goya to emphasize the sense of pathos: darkening the compositions with aquatint to create dense atmospheres in which the figures stand out with their own powerful inner light. Thus, Goya draws our gaze to what he wants to emphasize: the mother’s supine body, the faces and bodies of the men carrying her, the sobbing girl, and further back, the remains of another female war victim. Together, these figures create a continuous sequence, an arch that accentuates the idea of beginning and end, life and death. If the title seems to indicate that the dead mother is the protagonist, it is no less certain that the composition underlines the loneliness and vulnerability of her orphaned daughter. That vulnerability is brought out by the contrast between the size of the adults and that of the girl, and her loneliness is conveyed by her placement somewhat behind the rest, in the immense empty space that surrounds her. With just a few lines to define her hands as she rubs away her tears, Goya masterfully represents the little girl’s inconsolable weeping in the face of her tragic situation and her uncertain future (Text drawn from Matilla, J. M.: Madre infeliz!, in: Matilla, J. M. and Mena, M. B.: Goya: Luces y Sombras, Barcelona: Fundación La Caixa, 2012, p. 204).


Technical data

Related artworks

Unhappy mother!
Red chalk on grey laid paper, 1812 - 1814
Inventory number
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Hapless Mother!
1812 - 1814
Etching; Aquatint; Burnisher; Drypoint
Ivory paper
Height: 157 mm.; Width: 206 mm.
Desastres de la guerra [estampa], 50
Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid; Eduardo Luis Moreda Fernández; Museo del Prado, 2000

Bibliography +

Brunet, M.G., Étude sur Francisco Goya sa vie et ses travaux, Aubry, Paris, 1865, pp. 55.

Viñaza, Cipriano Muñoz y Manzano Conde de la, Goya: su tiempo, su vida, sus obras, Tip. M.G. Hernández, Madrid, 1887, pp. 388.

Delteil, Loys, Francisco Goya, I, Chez L'Auteur, Paris, 1922.

Mayer, August L., Francisco de Goya, Labor, Barcelona, 1925, pp. 231.

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Goya: el dos de mayo y los fusilamientos de la Moncloa, Juventud, Barcelona, 1946, pp. 20.

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Los desastres de la guerra de Goya y sus dibujos preparatorios, Instituto Amatller de Arte Hispánico, Barcelona, 1952, pp. 26.

Harris, Tomas, Goya, engravings and lithographs, II, Bruno Cassirer, Oxford, 1964, pp. 250.

Gassier, Pierre, Vie et oeuvre de Francisco de Goya: l' oeuvre complet illustré: peintures, dessins, gravures, Office du Livre, Fribourg, 1970.

Derozier, C., La Guerre D'Independance Espagnole a Travers L'Estampe (1808..., II, Universidad de Lille, Lille, 1976, pp. 915.

Tomlinson, Janis, Graphic Evolutions. The Print Series of Francisco Goya, Columbia University Press, New York, 1989, pp. 31.

Vega J., Fatales consecuencias de la guerra. Francisco de Goya, pintor, Francisco de Goya, grabador: instantáneas, Caser y Calcografía Nacional, Madrid, 1992, pp. 42.

Vega, Jesusa, Museo del Prado: catálogo de estampas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1992, pp. 93.

Blas, Javier y Matilla, José Manuel, El libro de los desastres de la guerra : Francisco de Goya, Museo Nacional del Prado. Calcografía Nacional, Madrid, 2000, pp. 98-100.

Obras adscritas al Museo Nacional del Prado en el año 2000, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XIX, 2001, pp. 200.

Nieto Alcaide, V., La guerra y lo imaginario en la pintura de Goya. En: Historias inmortales, Barcelona, 2003, pp. 319-329.

Calcografía Nacional (España), Calcografía Nacional: catálogo general, II, Calcografía Nacional, Madrid, 2004, pp. 465.

Matilla, José Manuel, Estampas españolas de la Guerra de la Independencia: propaganda, conmemoración y testimonio, Universidad de Salamanca, 2008.

Matilla J.M., Goya: en tiempos de guerra, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 328.

Bozal V., Miradas sobre la Guerra de la Independencia, Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, 2008, pp. 228.

Bordes J., Matilla J.M. y Balsells S, Goya, cronista de todas las guerras: los ''desastres'' y la fotografía de guerra, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno y Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria; Madrid, 2009, pp. 180.

Matilla, José Manuel y Mena Marqués M.B., Madre infeliz, Goya: luces y sombras, Fundación ''la Caixa'' y Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2012, pp. 204.

Hofmann, Julius, Francisco de Goya: Katalog seines graphischen Werkes, Gesellschaft für vervielfältigende Kunst, Viena, 2014, pp. 91-145.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2564.

Inscriptions +

Front, upper left corner

55 (raspado y bruñido)
Front, lower left corner

Título de la estampa
Front, lower central area


Exhibitions +

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
16.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Houston TX
15.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
22.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Brisbane, Australia
21.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Goya en Tiempos de Guerra
15.04.2008 - 13.07.2008

Update date: 04-12-2020 | Registry created on 26-11-2015

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