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The Worst is to beg
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

The Worst is to beg

1812 - 1814. Red chalk, Conté crayon on laid paper.
Not on display

A preparatory drawing for the print Disasters of War, 55, The Worst is to beg. One of Goya’s most singular conceptual contributions in his series of prints, Disasters of War, is his manner of representing the role of women in the conflict. They sometimes appear as heroines, but are more often depicted as victims of abuse and violence. In his desire to convey the war’s dire consequences for all levels of the population, he made women the protagonists of many of these prints—an unprecedented approach in the history of depictions of war. Their rape by soldiers and the exaltation of their motherhood constitute the two pivotal elements in scenes that present young women who have become prostitutes or mothers being raped alongside valiant heroines who defend their children’s lives or continue the battle initiated by their deceased husbands. On most occasions, the subject is quite explicit, but sometimes it proves more ambiguous. Such is the case with the present drawing and print. The latter’s title implies a previous question in two parts: which of the two responses to hunger is worse? Prostitution and its moral damage, or mendacity, with its physical consequences? Goya’s eloquent answer—The worst is to beg—is clearly set out in this image. The woman who survives by selling her body bows her head in humiliation, but those who keep their dignity die of hunger. As also occurs in Disaster 61, Perhaps they are of another breed (G02391), the composition presents two focal points as a means of expressing that duality. On the left we see the young woman and the French soldier; and in the center and right, the starving Spaniards. A comparison of the preparatory drawing to the subsequent print shows how Goya increased the work’s tragic and emotive aspects. In the drawing, despite the fact that she is not in the center of the composition, the young woman is the protagonist. Goya manages this by dressing her in a white skirt that stands out against the intensely drawn surroundings, and he further directs the other figures’ gazes towards her, just as did many years earlier in his cartoon for The Wedding (Museo del Prado, P799), where the bride draws the attention of everyone around her in what is clearly a marriage of convenience. Here, the man lying on the ground beside her is depicted with a similar use of light and dark: white shirt and trousers and a dark vest. Thus, Goya presents the two alternative responses to hunger, one alongside the other. The clearly commercial relationship between the woman and the soldier is underlined by the former’s bowed head as the Frenchman seems to be showing her where their encounter is to take place. The figure between them is probably her procuress. This highly descriptive presentation makes it easy to follow the story in the drawing, but in the print, the narrative becomes less precise as Goya opts, instead, for increased dramatic tension. He isolates the woman by moving the French soldier further back into the middle ground, where he faces forward. His colback, a French military hat, was customarily used by Goya to identify the French participants in his most violent compositions. This change accentuates the woman’s solitude and her condition as the victim of a destiny she, herself, has chosen over death. The preparatory drawing is rendered with Goya’s customary technique for this series: an initial light pencil sketch that guides the posterior application of definitive red-chalk lines of varying intensity. The use of paper with very marked laid lines gives a particularly linear appearance to the red-chalk lines that define the background. Traces of pencil are then added, overlapping the red-chalk lines and the touches of a second red pencil. This application of pencil on top of the image’s underlying levels is something Goya generally did in drawings made with washes, which are infrequent in his preparatory works for the Disasters, but he also employed it in some of his red-chalk drawings, including the preparatory drawing for Disasters of War 44, I saw it (D03972). (Text from: Matilla, J.M.: Lo peor es pedir, in Matilla, J.M. and Mena, M.B.: Goya: Luces y Sombras, Barcelona, 2012, p. 200).


Technical data

Related artworks

The Worst is to beg
Wash, Etching, Burnisher on wove paper, 1812 - 1814
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Inventory number
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
The Worst is to beg
1812 - 1814
Red chalk; Conté crayon
Laid paper
Second support: Continuous paper
Height: 171 mm; Width: 219 mm
Desastres de la guerra [dibujo]
Javier Goya, Madrid, 1828; Mariano Goya, Madrid, 1854; Valentín Carderera, Madrid, c. 1861; Mariano Carderera, Madrid, 1880; Museo del Prado, 1886.

Bibliography +

D'Achiardi, Pierre, Les Dessins de D. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes au Musée du Prado à Madrid, II, D. Anderson, Roma, 1908.

Delteil, Loys, Francisco Goya, I, Chez L'Auteur, Paris, 1922, pp. 174.

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

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier, Sala de los dibujos de Goya, II, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1928, pp. 25, n.147.

Adhemar, J., Goya. Exposition de L'Oeuvre Grave, De peintures, de tapisseries et de cent dix dessins du Musée du Prado, Bibliothèque National, Paris, 1935, pp. 43.

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Los desastres de la guerra de Goya y sus dibujos preparatorios, Instituto Amatller de Arte Hispánico, Barcelona, 1952, pp. 26, 173.

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier, Los dibujos de Goya reproducidos a su tamaño y en su color. Estudios para Los Caprichos, Los Desastres de la guerra, La Tauromaquia y dibujos no grabados, I, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1954, pp. 116.

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 1085.

Sayre, Eleanor, The Changing Image. Prints by Francisco Goya, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1974, pp. 190-191.

Gassier, Pierre, Dibujos de Goya. Estudios para Grabados y Pinturas, II, Noguer, Barcelona, 1975, pp. 272.

Derozier, C., La Guerre D'Independance Espagnole a Travers L'Estampe (1808..., II, Universidad de Lille, Lille, 1976, pp. 920.

Vega J., Goya y el espíritu de la Ilustración, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1988, pp. 309-311.

Tonnesson, Kare, Francisco Goya, Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo, 1996.

Biblioteca Nacional España, Ydioma Universal: Goya en la Biblioteca Nacional, Biblioteca Nacional Lunwerg, Madrid, 1996, pp. 213.

Blas, Javier, El libro de los desastres de la guerra Francisco de Goya. Vol. I, Museo del Prado: R.A.B.A.S.F., Madrid, 2000.

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

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

Goya en tiempos de guerra, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 326.

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. 190.

Goya: luces y sombras. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo, 2011, pp. 186-187.

Cobo, G., 'Niños. La Infancia y su entorno' En:, Mena Marques,Manuela B. Goya en Madrid : cartones para tapices 1775-1794, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2014, pp. 212-219 [216 f.5.20].

Filigree +

Motive: Grifo y monograma "JC" (mitad superior)
Height: 36 mm
Width: 53 mm

Other inventories +

Catálogo Gassier, 1975. Núm. II 204.

Colección Dibujos Goya (Numeración Sánchez Catón). Núm. 147.

Catálogo Goya, Pierre Gassier y Juliet Wilson. Núm. 1085.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

Goya in Madrid
28.11.2014 - 03.05.2015

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 en Tiempos de Guerra
15.04.2008 - 13.07.2008

Goya grabador
19.09.1996 - 15.12.1996

Francisco de Goya
10.02.1996 - 14.04.1996

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

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