Francisco Goya and the Eighteenth Century Spanish Church

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  • Topic: Seven deadly sins, Francisco Goya, The Disasters of War
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  • Published : August 12, 2010
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Francisco Goya and the Eighteenth Century Spanish Church|
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Following a century or more of gestation, Spain experienced a period of enlightenment in literature, art, religion, commerce, and agriculture, especially during the reign of Carlos III (1759-1788). Spain moved cautiously away from Counter-Reformation ideology and into the secular light of eighteenth-century Europe. Spain was producing liberated thinkers; innovators with new and non-traditional ideas. For the first time in history religious dogma was dangerously questioned. For example, many innovators of that time period were preoccupied with the problem of entailed estates and the economic consequences of unproductive land and property held by the church (Dowling, 1985, pp. 331, 333). Francisco de Goya touched on this issue and many more. He was one of the greatest artists of his time and his 1799 print series “Los Caprichos” expose the greed and corruption of the Church during the Spanish enlightenment. “Los Caprichos” is like a modern day newspaper comic parody of the president. Goya lampoons Spanish society through satirical commentary. Some plates illustrate Goya’s disillusionment with certain crises during the Enlightenment, while other prints portray the unambiguous position of prostitution in Spanish high society, but Goya’s main focus is that of the Church and the blind faith of its congregation (Burnham, 2008, p. 1). It is my purpose to provide examples of the issues and criticisms aimed at the Church during the Enlightenment through studying three plates from “Los Caprichos” that I believe best describe the situation between the Church and its followers: “What a Tailor Can Do!”, “They’re Hot”, and “Why Hide Them?” By creating a print series Goya was able to make many copies of “Los Caprichos” and distribute his message to a vast percentage of the public in an inexpensive way. However, the fact that “Los Caprichos” would be so readily available created the risk that it would fall into the wrong hands. In order to protect himself from persecution he ingeniously disguised the true meaning of his satirical work. At the time Goya finished “Los Caprichos” the Spanish Inquisition was still censoring art and seeking out and torturing heretics. Goya had to be insidious when allegorizing negative commentary towards the Church. He is careful not to reference specific individuals, although if his viewers look though unbiased eyes they can identify who the figures represent within his art. Once one deciphers Goya’s artistic code they can understand “that the plates did not depict goblins and spirits but the abbes of Spain, a priest, and a number of monks” (Sayre, 1974, p. 56). Through his clever symbolism, Goya successfully escapes the wrath of the Spanish Inquisition while maintaining the integrity of his art. Many etchings in “Los Caprichos” correlates the Seven Deadly Sins, particularly lust, sloth, greed and gluttony with pious men and the clergy (Burnham, 2008, p. 1).

The sin of greed, gluttony, and lust can be seen in plate thirteen titled “They’re Hot.” At first glance this appears to be a dinner scene of some monks enjoying their meal. They are identified as monks by the robes they wear. The dark contrasts create a murky suspicion that there is something depraved about this illustration. Once you look past the façade that protected Goya from the Spanish Inquisition so long ago, strange details begin to emerge. There is not a single piece of food on the table, not on the plates, and not on their forks. The symbolism behind this may conclude that no matter how much food these monks consume, they will not be satisfied. This represents the greed of the Spanish Church in the eighteenth century. As I mentioned before the Spanish Church owned more than enough property and land and this created problems for enterprising farmers looking to buy (Burnham, 2008, p. 2). “They’re Hot” was Goya’s comment on the...
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