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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


1797 - 1799. Etching, Aquatint, Drypoint on paper. Not on display

Volaverunt is one of the iconic images from Los Caprichos and one of the prints that has received the most commentary from art historians. Its attraction is derived from the formal harmony of the image, as well as its influence in the construction of the romantic myth of the artist´s supposed intimate relationship with the Duchess of Alba. In contemporary accounts, the duchess was described as a stunningly beautiful woman, whom the painter portrayed on several occasions, most recently before the publication of Los Caprichos in his portrait of her from 1797, dressed in black and pointing toward the inscription Solo Goya (Only Goya) on the ground before her (Hispanic Society of America, New York). Almost every interpretation of the female figure in this print identifies her with the duchess, explaining the image as a bitter criticism from a spited lover. As is typical of other prints in the series, the Latin title Volaverunt suggests several meanings, for in addition to its literal translation, They have flown, it can also allude to something lost.The hypothesis that Goya is saying that the Duchess of Alba has flown away forever depends on the butterfly wings -a symbol of inconstancy according to a longstanding poetic tradition- emerging from the back of the young woman´s head. But the butterfly may also signify fragility, or that which is ephemeral and changing; it is also conceptually tied to the idea of immortality in the sense of passing on to a new life. Because of its mutable nature, the butterfly is associated with Fortune, and in Cesare Ripa´s Iconologia -an emblem book that provided generations of artists in Europe with their main source of iconographic symbolism after its publication in 1593- the allegorical figure of Imprudence is represented with butterfly wings. In its simplest sense, the butterfly embodies femininity, and since its wings serve to fly, their inclusion in an image of a woman flying seems to be an obvious connection.Tempting though it may be to interpret this print as a commentary on a romance between the duchess and the painter, there is no proof that such a relationship ever existed, nor are there any objectively clear elements in Volaverunt that would allow us to identify the woman as the duchess. A comparison with other female figures in the series suggests a different conclusion. The woman here is wearing the walking dress Goya used for prostitutes in other prints. Significantly, the woman´s legs are spread and her neckline bare. The trio of grotesque characters propelling her flight appear to be witches. Indeed, in the ordering of the prints, this one is included among the scenes of witchcraft. Goya´s witches are a variant of the depraved go-betweens that incite prostitution and lead people to vice. From this standpoint, we may view the young woman in Volaverunt as flitting from man to man as a butterfly between flowers, driven in her flight by the witches (Blas Benito, J.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 208).


Technical data

Related artworks

Red chalk on laid paper, Ca. 1797
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Etching, Aquatint, Drypoint on ivory laid paper, 1797 - 1799
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
Inventory number
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
1797 - 1799
Etching; Aquatint; Drypoint
Height: 215 mm; Width: 150 mm
Caprichos [estampa], 61
Donation by Tomas Harris

Bibliography +

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.

Exhibitions +

Meta-painting. A Journey to the Idea of Art
15.11.2016 - 19.02.2017

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

El Toro Mariposa
31.10.2007 - 03.02.2008

Update date: 22-11-2021 | Registry created on 12-11-2016

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