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Nothing. The Event will tell
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

Nothing. The Event will tell

1814 - 1815. Wash, Etching, Aquatint, Burnisher, Drypoint on ivory paper.
Not on display

More has been written about Nothing. The Event will tell (number 69 of the Disasters of War), than about any other preparatory drawing for the Disasters. Its cryptic character has sparked a variety of iconographic readings, and even more interpretations that seek to divine Goya’s inner thoughts at a time that was unquestionably adverse for him in the personal sense. Its obscure meaning may well be what has led each writer to view the print and drawing as a means of setting out the ideas they had developed about Goya through the pages of his Disasters. This tendency was already present in his early critics, including Gautier, who took a special interest in Goya’s most imaginative compositions. After viewing this print, he wondered: “could anything more sinister and grim possibly be imagined?” Soon thereafter, in a novel, Mathéron linked this composition to Goya’s skeptical nature: “on various occasions, the artist explicitly professed his faith. Once he even did so before the Bishop of Granada, who had come that day to visit the studio at his country manse. The reverent prelate had barely entered the space when he saw a painting of a ghost emerging from his tomb and tracing the word Nothing! On a page that his unseeing eyes could not even read. Several vaguely shaped ghosts occupied the canvas’s background, and one of them held scales whose empty pans have been turned upside down. After contemplating this composition for quite some time, the bishop exclaimed: Nothing! Nothing! A sublime idea, Vanitas, vanitatum et omnia vanitas. Goya, who was quite old, asked one of the other people present there what the prelate had said, and after it was explained to him, he replied: Ah, poor excellency, you have indeed understood me! My ghost wants to say that he has made the trip to eternity but found nothing there.” Beruete, who knew Goya’s work very well, rejected the supposed lack of religious ideas attributed to the artist by earlier critics—Mélida, for example, who called this print “the artist’s profession of faith”—as he considered it an expression of the idea that “everything, including man’s wars and peace, is vanity in light of the inexorable destiny of all things human: Death, of which this drawing could simply be a manifestation or allegory.” Lafuente placed this drawing in its historical and personal context: “we must keep in mind that the war had already ended and, after his anti-devotional outburst, Goya launched, or even spat out, his skeptical refusal and disappointment in humanity and any hope for justice […] Goya faces the ferocity of Spain’s recent experience and wonders what use it has had, what benefits or lessons this recent sorrow may offer the Spanish people. The answer he finds inside himself is painful and bitter: none at all. Mankind does not learn.” In his consideration of emblematic sources, Glendinning proposed a possible political reading, as well as a mediation on death, and Dérozier followed with the idea that Goya was recapitulating and inviting the viewer to reflect, to exercise his or her critical capacities to distinguish the excesses of hopeless nihilism from those of unreasoning faith. In that sense, this drawing would not necessarily be a negation of religion, but instead, the expression of a critical attitude. Hofmann, however, interpreted it from the standpoint of artistic creation, as a continuation of The Sleep of Reason, as the war had opened new avenues for fantasy and creativity, including new types of cruelty that leave artistic fantasy behind. Bozal viewed this work in the series’ sequential context: “it is a response to everything previously presented: the inanity of worship and its superstitious character are due, fundamentally and mostly to the fact that there is nothing after death. From that standpoint, Disaster 69 is the axis around which the three previous prints, and the following ones, revolve as, from its perspective, political and religious power can be viewed in a different way.” For Roche, in the framework of research that contextualized the Emphatic Caprichos in the politics of their time, it conveyed the idea that “the horrors of the war and the achievements of the constitutional parliament had only served to provoke the forces of absolutism and darkness in Spain to deny everything for which most Spaniards had been fighting.” And this idea was reinforced by Vega, for whom “there is no longer going to be a place for the victims of the war. Nothing will remain of them, as another struggle has already begun, and this time it is among the Spaniards themselves.” In sum, over almost half-a-century, the interpretation of this drawing has shifted from an expression of Goya’s religious nihilism to one of political nihilism in the face of postwar events. To what degree could Goya have been expressing a lack of faith here, when just a few years earlier, in 1819, he had painted The Last Communion of Saint Joseph of Calasanz, a masterpiece in which, with profound respect, he transmitted his admiration for the eminently spiritual figure of Saint Joseph, one of the renovators of pedagogy whose ideas made him a target of the Inquisition? That saint’s face has much in common with that of the cadaver on the print , but while the former receives divine light, the latter lies in a world of shadows. Despite the fact that this scene follows others related to religious belief, its lack of iconographic elements of that type prevents us from concluding that the “nothing” mentioned in the inscription expresses a negation of life after death. On the contrary, there are a series of engraved elements that more convincingly cast it as a criticism of the consequences of the war and the return of absolutism. In the state proof at the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, the work is clearly divided into two parts. On the left, the glowingly lit figure of a woman writes in a book while holding scales in her left hand. She is almost certainly Reason, protected by Justice and Progress, and she opposes the forces of darkness, represented by a dark group of faces and grotesque figures of the kind that began to appear quite frequently in Goya’s work in those years. And in the foreground, the allegorical image of Man, who has suffered the dire consequences of the war, and of the restoration of absolutism. Lying on the ground, he scrawls the word “Nothing” on a sheet of paper. The wicker twig he holds between the thumb and index finger of his other hand belongs to an unfinished basket or crown whose warp strands are visible toward the top of the composition. If this were an empty or incomplete basket, it could be interpreted as an expression of the emptiness and sterility the result from a war, as baskets have customarily been related to the idea of abundance. If, instead, it were a crown, as Glendinning points out, it would have a political meaning linked to the futility of the reaction to Ferdinand. Goya’s title, inscribed on Ceán’s copy, is also revealing: Nothing. The Event will tell, in other worlds, here is the proof that there is nothing there; where once there was light, now there is only death and darkness. (Text from: Matilla, J.M.: Nada. Ello lo dice, in: Goya en tiempos de Guerra, Madrid: Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008, pp. 338-340)


Technical data

Related artworks

Nothing. The Event will tell
Grey-brown wash, Gouache / tempera, Touches of white chalk on blue laid paper, 1814 - 1815
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Inventory number
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Nothing. The Event will tell
1814 - 1815
Wash; Etching; Aquatint; Burnisher; Drypoint
Ivory paper
Height: 155 mm; Width: 201 mm
Desastres de la guerra [estampa], 69
Acquired by the Museo del Prado, 2000

Bibliography +

Gautier, Théophile, Voyage en Espagne, Garnier-Flammarion, Paris, 1845.

Matheron, Laurent, Goya, Schultz et Thuillie, 1858.

Brunet, M.G., Étude sur Francisco Goya sa vie et ses travaux, Aubry, Paris, 1865, pp. 57.

Yriarte, Charles, Goya: sa biographie, les fresques, les toiles, les tapisseries, les eaux-fortes et le catalogue de l' oeuvre, Henri Plon, Paris, 1867, pp. 118.

Viñaza, Cipriano Muñoz y Manzano Conde de la, Goya: su tiempo, su vida, sus obras, Tip. M.G. Hernández, Madrid, 1887, pp. 393.

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

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

Velasco y Aguirre, Miguel, Grabados y litografías de Goya, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1928, pp. 10.

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Las Pruebas de Estado de 'Los Desastres de la Guerra' en la Biblioteca Nacional, II, Anabad, Madrid, 1934, pp. 387.

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Los desastres de la guerra de Goya y sus dibujos preparatorios, Instituto Amatller de Arte Hispánico, Barcelona, 1952, pp. 72, 183.

Harris, Tomas, Goya, engravings and lithographs, II, Bruno Cassirer, Oxford, 1964, pp. 278.

Gassier, Pierre y Wilson-Bareau, Juliet, 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. 941.

Bozal, Valeriano, Imagen de Goya, Lumen, Barcelona, 1983, pp. 221.

Armstrong Roche M., Nada. Ello lo dice, Goya y el espíritu de la Ilustración, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 1988, pp. 436.

Vega, Jesusa, Fatales consecuencias de la guerra.Francisco de Goya, pintor, Francisco de Goya, grabador: instantáneas, Caser y Calcografía Nacional, Madrid, 1992, pp. 45.

Biblioteca NacionalEspaña, "Ydioma Universal": Goya en la Biblioteca Nacional, Biblioteca NacionalLunwerg, Madrid, 1996, pp. 216.

Cuenca M.L., Docampo J. t Vinatea P., Catalogo de las estampas de Goya en la Biblioteca Nacional, Biblioteca Nacional y Lunwerg, Madrid, 1996, pp. 178.

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. 132-136.

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. 467.

Bozal, Valeriano, Francisco Goya: vida y obra, II, T.F., Alcobendas (Madrid), 2005, pp. 125.

Matilla J.M., Nada. Ello lo dice, Goya: en tiempos de guerra, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 338.

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. 218.

Matilla J.M., Nada. Ello dirá, Goya : luces y sombras. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado y Fundación La Caixa, Madrid Y Barcelona, 2011, pp. 206.

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 +

Upper left corner, Front, Secondary support

Front, lower left corner

Título de la obra
Front, lower central area

Update date: 22-11-2021 | Registry created on 26-11-2015

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