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Satan’s desperation
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

Satan’s desperation

1816 - 1819. Red wash, Red chalk on laid paper.
Not on display

Satan’s Desperation does not correspond to any of the prints from the Disparates, but it shares the same formal and technical characteristics as the rest of that series’ preliminary drawings: the same paper, comparable dimensions and a similar use of red wash and red chalk. Therefore, it is probably a composition that Goya excluded when he began engraving, or that he did not have time to transfer to an engraving plate for this unfinished series. Diagonally divided into two areas of different densities and degrees of illumination. On its darker side a gigantic animal head is about to devour a winged devil with a terrified look on his face and both hands grasping a boulder in an attempt to avoid his fall. On the brighter side, two flying female figures are lightly sketched in. Winged diabolical figures are a constant in Goya’s graphic works, appearing in drawings and prints from the Caprichos series such as Tale Bearers (D04383) and They spruce themselves up (D04219). Other prints from this series have similar figures, but without wings. Goya used these monstrous beings to satirize superstition and ignorance, unlike the winged female figures that also frequently appear in his work. Beautiful winged women began appearing in his work towards the end of the seventeen-nineties, for example, in Capricho 61, Volaverunt (D04223). The formal, and possibly symbolic, resemblance is noticeable in page 117 of Album C, titled Light and Darkness (D4086), where a woman who is probably an allegory of constitutional Spain flies through dark space, illuminating it with her light. The difficulty of interpreting the Disparates has sometimes led to misunderstanding with regard to the formal meaning of their compositions, and the present drawing is one example. In 1860, Carderera believed the devil was attempting to climb the boulder while gazing at the sky. In other words, he was looking at the drawing upside down: A skinny nude man—practically a ghost—with large dragon’s wings grips a boulder about to come loose and looks to the heavens towards which he is climbing. In 1928, Sánchez Cantón proposed calling it Pleading Demon, and in 1954, following Carderera’s description, he turned the drawing to show the demonic figure climbing the boulder. In 1951, Camón Aznar called this work, Satan’s Desperation and placed it so that the figure appears to be falling down the rock face. In 1975, however, Gassier turned it over again to reflect Carderera’s description. At the beginning of his commentary, Gassier affirmed that he had directly examined the work, but he seems not to have noticed the presence of the monster’s head nor the orientation of the flying figures, which only makes sense when the drawing is seen in its proper position. His book is so well known that, on the few occasions when this drawing has been reproduced, it has been presented incorrectly. In 1983, Harris returned to the falling position; in fact, he titled the scene Falling Demon, and pointed out its similarity to the soldier who collapses in Pure Folly (D04289). Nonetheless, when inverted, it also resembles the main figure in Old Man Wandering Among Phantoms (G02186), which Harris also mentioned. Gassier reconsidered the demon’s ascending position in light of the placement of his hands and, once again, of Carderera’s reference. Matilla recently noticed the presence of a monstrous head about to devour the winged devil, which would justify a descending position in which he is falling. The lack of both documentary references and external literary ones combines with the difficulty of correctly determining the nature of what is represented. Consequently, subjectivity is a common characteristic of commentaries seeking to interpret these images. Most are pure literature, with no basis in historical or artistic questions. Only by understanding Goya’s overall production can we interpret this drawing as the possibly hopeful expression of the symbolic combat between light and darkness, beauty and monstrosity or freedom and repression, that is, between rationality and irrationality—a subject that constitutes one of the ideological axes of Goya’s work and is symbolically represented in his Disparates series. (Text from Matilla, J.M.: La desesperación de Satán, in Matilla, J.M. and Mena, M.B. Goya: Luces y Sombras, Barcelona, Fundación La Caixa, 2012).


Technical data

Inventory number
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Satan’s desperation
1816 - 1819
Red wash; Red chalk
Laid paper
Height: 224 mm; Width: 326 mm
Disparates [dibujo]
Javier Goya, Madrid, 1828; Mariano Goya, Madrid, 1854; Valentín Carderera, Madrid, c. 1861; Mariano Carderera; Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1880; Museo del Prado, 12-11-1886.

Bibliography +

Mayer, August L., Francisco de Goya, Labor, Barcelona, 1925, pp. 231, nº 232.

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier, Sala de los dibujos de Goya, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1928, pp. 31, nº 200.

Adhémar, J., Goya. Exposition de l'oeuvre gravé, de peintures, de tapisseries et cent dix dessins du Mussé du Prado, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, París, 1935, pp. 45, nº 282.

Camón Aznar, José, Los disparates de Goya y sus dibujos preparatorios, Instituto Amatller de Arte Hispánico, Barcelona, 1951, pp. 52, [113-115].

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier, Los dibujos de Goya reproducidos a su tamaño y en su color, II, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1954, pp. nº 396.

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, pp. nº 1608.

Gassier, Pierre, Vida y obra de Francisco de Goya: reproducción de su obra completa: pinturas, dibujos y grabados, Juventud, Barcelona, 1974, pp. 327, nº 1608.

Gassier, Pierre, Dibujos de Goya. Estudios para grabados y pinturas, II, Noguer, Barcelona, 1975, pp. 464-465, nº 306.

Holo, S., Goya. Los Disparates, Washington State University Press, Washington, 1976, pp. 47, il. 19.

Camón Aznar, José, Francisco de Goya, IV, Caja de Ahorros de Zaragoza, Aragón y Rioja, Zaragoza, 1980-1982, pp. 102.

Salas, Xavier de, "Satans Verweiflung", en: Goya Das Zeitalter der Revolutionen 1789-1830, Prestel Verlag; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Munich; Hamburgo:, 1980, pp. 70-71, nº 17.

Harris, Tomas, Goya. Engravings and lithographs, Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, San Francisco, 1983, pp. 411, nº 269d.

Carderera y Solano, Valentín, Estudios sobre Goya (1835-1885). Anotaciones de Burty, P., Institución Fernando el Católico, Zaragoza:, 1996, pp. 62.

Mena Marqués, Manuela B., Goya, Electa, Roma, 2000, pp. 146-147, nº 51.

Matilla, José Manuel, "La desesperación de Satán", en: Goya en tiempos de guerra, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 494-495, nº 185.

Matilla, José Manuel, "La desesperación de Satán", en: Goya. Luces y sombras. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokio, 2011, pp. 258, nº 101.

Matilla, José Manuel, "La desesperación de Satán", en: Goya. Luces y sombras, Fundación "La Caixa", Barcelona, 2012, pp. 264, nº 75.

Matilla Rodríguez, José Manuel, Ligereza y atrevimiento. Dibujos de Goya, Fundación Botín, Santander, 2017, pp. 123 n.72.

Matilla, J.M. Mena M.B., Goya: dibujos. Solo la voluntad me sobra, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2019, pp. 247 nº159.

Filigree +

Motive: Letra "MANUEL SERRA" (mitad derecha)
Height: 22 mm
Width: 63 mm
Marca de agua "MANUEL -- SERRA" del papelero Manuel Serra y Franch, miembro de la dinastía de papeleros apellidados Serra, afincada en los molinos de Cap de Pont y Orpí en la rivera del río Carme, en Capellades (Barcelona), desde 1786 y durante las dos décadas iniciales del XIX. Manuel trabajó en Capellades durante las primeras décadas del siglo XIX. En 1827 ya figuraba su viuda como continuadora del negocio, pues así consta en la Exposición de la Industria de ese año, donde la Viuda de Serra y Franch recibió una mención honorífica por su producción de papel (Memoria de la Junta de Calificacion de los productos de la industria española remitidos á la Esposicion pública de 1827, Madrid, Imprenta de D.L. Amarita, 1828, p. 58).

Biblioteca Nacional España, Ydioma Universal: Goya en la Biblioteca Nacional, Biblioteca Nacional Lunwerg, Madrid, 1996, pp. 307, fil. 35.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Gassier, 1975. Núm. II 306.

Colección Dibujos Goya (Numeración Sánchez Catón). Núm. 200.

Catálogo Goya, Pierre Gassier y Juliet Wilson. Núm. 1608.

Inscriptions +

MP Inventario DIBUJOS nº 200
Printmaking. Back, upper right corner

11 [invertido]
Inscribed. Front, upper right corner

200 [invertido]
Inscribed. Back, Upper right area

200 [sobre adhesivo]
Inscribed. Back, Upper central area

Inscribed. Back, Upper central area

no grabada
Inscribed. Back, Upper left area

Exhibitions +

Goya. Drawings. "Only my Strength of Will Remains"
20.11.2019 - 16.02.2020

Solo la voluntad me sobra. Dibujos de Francisco de Goya
19.11.2019 - 16.02.2020

Ligereza y atrevimiento. Dibujos de Goya
22.06.2017 - 30.09.2017

Goya: luces y sombras. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado
15.03.2012 - 24.06.2012

Goya: luces y sombras. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado / Goya: Lights and Shadows. Masterpieces of the Museo del Prado
22.10.2011 - 29.01.2012

Goya in Times of War
15.04.2008 - 13.07.2008

Le crepuscule de la raison
15.10.2001 - 15.01.2002

Goya - Roma
16.03.2000 - 06.06.2000

Update date: 04-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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