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Of what illness will he die?
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

Of what illness will he die?

1797 - 1799. Etching, Drypoint, Japanese chisel, Burnished aquatint on ivory laid paper.
Not on display

Capricho 40, Of what illness will he die? In the Caprichos, Goya assimilated different satirical traditions, some of which were learned and others popular, ranging from the literature of the Spanish Golden Age and moralising texts from the Enlightenment to contemporary material in proverbs, parodies, popular sayings, folklore and theatrical representations, and including also what he could encounter in emblem books and satirical prints. Juan Agustín Ceán Bermúdez, a friend of the artist, remarked on the satirical nature of the etchings, He who thumbs through the Caprichos by Goya will laugh. The Spanish Royal Academy´s 1791 dictionary defines satire as a kind of work in which the customs or actions of the general public are mocked or censured. This satirical dimension of the Caprichos is particularly evident in the prints featuring donkeys, from plates 37 to 42. Despite their asinine nature, the protagonists in these prints engage in the noblest work of humanity, such as teaching, medicine or the arts (musical, pictorial and literary). The asses are thus humanised, and their humanlike activities are laden with critical meaning. Plate 40 represents a donkey–physician taking the pulse of an agonised patient before two dark silhouettes outlined against the curtain in the background. One of these silhouettes suggests the habit of a cleric, perhaps attending to the dying man´s spiritual health. The dramatic intensity of the image is diminished by the characterisation of the doctor as an animal, introducing a subversion of the logical order of things, and whose iconographic source is the imagery associated with the commonplace of the world upside-down. Of the doctor´s social category there is no doubt: witness his frockcoat, the cravat wrapped around his neck, the chain to his fob-watch that can be seen against his breeches and, on his hoof, a splendid ring with a large gemstone. Precisely this sort of ring was the subject of mockery as a sign of the wearer´s arrogance. Francisco de Quevedo´s Sueños y discursos (Dreams and discourses; 1627) was an important source for Goya´s conception of Los Caprichos - in that collection of satirical texts, Quevedo describes the fat ring on the doctor´s thumb, with a stone so large that when he takes the patient´s pulse, they can diagnose the stone that will seal the sick man´s grave´.Goya presents the paradox between the physician´s respectable appearance and his mean character, for the ass symbolises ignorance; an idea accentuated here by the fact that his eyes are closed. This suggestion of blindness is a clear metaphor for a lack of knowledge. Thus, the donkey represents the fool who has attained an elevated place in society through the incompetent practising of medicine, provoking the suffering and demise of his patients. The caption, Of what ill will he die?, is a rhetorical formula. Given the choice between the two possible answers -the disease or the treatment- one finds the answer to be obvious: the patient will die of doctoring. The message, as a criticism of incompetent physicians and the pernicious consequences of their ineptness, would be easily understood by Goya´s contemporaries. In one of the manuscript commentaries on the Caprichos from the time of their publication, we find the following explanation: There is no reason to ask what the patient has died from when he follows the advice of doctors who are ignorant brutes (Blas Benito, J.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 211).


Technical data

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Inventory number
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Of what illness will he die?
1797 - 1799
Etching; Drypoint; Japanese chisel; Burnished aquatint
Ivory laid paper
Height: 306 mm; Width: 201 mm; Height of the plate mark: 214 mm; Width of the plate mark: 149 mm
Caprichos [estampa], 40

Bibliography +

Piot, E., Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre gravé de Francisco Goya y Lucientes, Cabinet de l’amateur et de l’antiquaire. Revue des tableaux et des estampes anciennes; des objets d’art, d’antiquitè et de curiosité, I, 1842, pp. 351.

Brunet, M.G., Étude sur Francisco Goya. Sa vie et ses travaux. Notice biographique et artistique accompagnée de photographies d’aprés les compositions de ce maitre, Aubry, libraire-éditeur, París, 1865, pp. 37-38.

Lefort, P., Essai d’un catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre gravé et lithographié de Francisco de Goya. Première Partie. Pièces publiées en séries. Les Caprices. Nos 1 a 80, Gazette des beaux-arts, IX, 22, 1867, pp. 385.

D'Achiardi, P., Les dessins de D. Francisco Goya y Lucientes au Musée du Prado à Madrid. 1ère livraison (Les Caprices), D.Anderson Editeur, Roma, 1908.

Beruete y Moret, A., Goya grabador, III, Blass y Cía, Madrid, 1918, pp. 48-49.

Adhemar, J., Goya: exposition de l’oeuvre gravé de peintures, de tapisseries et de cent dix dessins du Musée du Prado, Bibliotheques Nationales, París, 1935, pp. 10.

Wight, F.S., The Revulsions of Goya: Subconscious Communications in the Etchings, The Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism, V,1, 1946, pp. 1-12.

Klingender, F.D., Goya in the Democratic Tradition, Sidgwick and Jackson Limited, Londres, 1948, pp. 90-91.

Sánchez Cantón, F.J., Los Caprichos de Goya y sus dibujos preparatorios, Instituto Amatller de Arte Hispánico, Barcelona, 1949, pp. 35, 86.

López-Rey, J., Goya’s Caprichos: Beauty, Reason and Caricature, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1953, pp. 129.

Harris, T., ''Catalogue Raisonné'', en Goya: Engravings and Lithographs, II, Bruno Cassirer, Oxford, 1964, pp. 112, n. 75.

Delteil, Loys, Goya. Facs. 1922, Collectors EditionsDa Capo Press, 1969, pp. n. 77.

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

Gassier, P, Dibujos de Goya. Estudios para grabados y pinturas, Noguer, Barcelona, 1975, pp. n. 58 y 98.

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Los Caprichos de Goya, Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 1978, pp. 114.

Nilsson, S.A., The Ass Sequence in Los Caprichos, Konsthistorisk Tidskrift, XLVII, 1, 1978, pp. 27-38.

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, El mundo de Goya en sus dibujos, Urbión, Madrid, 1979, pp. 89-91.

Comentario anónimo francés en P. Lefort, “Essai d’un catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre gravé et lithographié de Francisco de Goya. Première Partie. Pièces publiées en séries. Les Caprices. Nos 1 a 80”, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, IX, 22 (1867) 198. Recogido y traducido al castellano por Glendinnig, n., en Goya y sus críticos, Taurus, Madrid, 1982, pp. 78-80.

López Vázquez, J. M. B., Los Caprichos de Goya y su interpretación, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Santiago De Compostela, 1982, pp. 159.

Helman, Edith, Trasmundo de Goya, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1983, pp. 69.

Sayre, E.A., ''Francisco Goya y Lucientes, Pintor'' en Goya y el espíritu de la Ilustración, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1988, pp. 222-225, n. 47 y 48.

Cela, C.J., Los Caprichos de Francisco de Goya, Sílex, Madrid, 1989, pp. 92-93.

De Paz, Alfredo, Goya. Arte e Condizione Umana, Liguori Editore, Nápoles, 1990, pp. 214.

Wilson-Bareau, J., Goya: la década de los Caprichos. Dibujos y aguafuertes, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, 1992, pp. 228-231.

Rodríguez Torres, M.T., Goya, Saturno y el saturnismo: su enfermedad, Mª Teresa Rodríguez Torres, Madrid, 1993, pp. 77.

Vega, J., “El sueño dibujado”en Realidad y sueño en los viajes de Goya, I Jornadas de Arte en Fuendetodos, Zaragoza, 1996, pp. 51.

Glendinning, N., ''El arte satírico de los Caprichos; con una nueva síntesis de la historia de su estampación y divulgación'', en Caprichos de Francisco de Goya: una aproximación y tres estudios, Calcografía Nacional; Fundació Caixa de Catalunya; Fundación El Monte de Sevilla, Madrid, 1996, pp. 43.

Blas, J.; Matilla, J. M.; Medrano, J. M., El Libro de los Caprichos: dos siglos de interpretaciones 1799-1999. Catálogo de los dibujos, pruebas de estado, láminas de cobre y estampas de la primera edición, Museo Nacional de Prado, Madrid, 1999, pp. 226-229.

Blas, J; Andioc, R; Centellas, R., Mirar y leer. Los Caprichos de Goya, Diputacion Provincial de Madrid ; Calcografía Nacional; Pontevedra: Museo de Pontevedra, Zaragoza, 1999, pp. 148-149.

Stoichita, V.I; Coderch, A.M., El último carnaval: un ensayo sobre Goya, Siruela, 2000, pp. 169-207, 209-237, 285-307.

López Vázquez, J.M.B., Goya. Sueños y Caprichos. En: Goya y Dalí, Universidad Santiago de Compostela; Fundación Artes, Ribeira, 2004, pp. 263-274.

Bozal, V., Francisco Goya: vida y obra, T.F., Madrid, 2005, pp. 191-230.

Schulz, A., Goya's Caprichos : Aesthetics, Perception, and the Body, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005.

Cirlot, L., “Comentarios a los Caprichos”, en Caprichos: Francisco de Goya. Estudios, Planeta; Universidad de Zaragoza, Barcelona, 2006, pp. 262-265.

Bird, W., Goya and the Menippus Satire: New Ligth on ‘The Strolling Players, Yard with Madmen’ and Later Works, Artibus et Historiae, 60, 2009, pp. 245-269.

Jacobs, H.C.; Klingenberger, M, Preyer, N, Los comentarios manuscritos sobre los Caprichos de Goya: edición, traducción , interpretación - III, Institución Fernando el Católico, Zaragoza, 2019.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Goya, Pierre Gassier y Juliet Wilson. Núm. 529.

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2297.

Inscriptions +

40. // De que mal morira?

Exhibitions +

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
16.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

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

Update date: 30-09-2022 | Registry created on 24-08-2015

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