With Halloween creeping up, dare to enter Park West Museum and view some legitimately creepy artwork by Francisco Goya, one of the most important Spanish artists of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The unsettling works in question belong to Goya’s “Los Caprichos” series, which he began sketching shortly after becoming ill in 1792. The illness sparked a wave of creativity that led to the darker style seen in “Caprichos.”
The result was 80 plates completed between 1797 and 1799—graphic works that critique both Spain’s culture and humanity in general. Throughout the series, Goya makes trenchant political commentary and references to witchcraft accompanied by bizarre and disturbing imagery—perfect for Halloween.
You can visit Park West Museum to see examples of “Los Caprichos” in person, or you read our below list of seven of the most eerie images from Goya’s notorious graphic series.
As an added bonus, we’ve included Goya’s commentary on the symbolism and significance of each image—taken from his “Prado manuscript.”
Aguarda que te Unten
(Wait till you’ve been Anointed)
This image shows a goblin and an old hag, looking as if they are about to sacrifice a goat. While the two figures are creepy enough, perhaps the true horror is that the goat’s leg held by the goblin ends in a human foot.
From the Prado manuscript: “He has been sent out on an important errand and wants to go off half-annointed. Even among the witches, some are hare-brained, impetuous, madcap, without a scrap of judgement. It’s the same the world over.”
A Caza de Dientes
(Out Hunting for Teeth)
Witches need to collect their spell and potion ingredients from somewhere, right? Apparently, that sometimes involves prying teeth from a dead man, which as this image shows, is a grotesque errand.
From the Prado manuscript: “The teeth of a hanged man are very efficacious for sorceries; without this ingredient there is not much you can do. What a pity the common people should believe such nonsense.”
What is possibly a witch is shown torturing a man while a demonic goat watches. Though open to interpretation, the manuscript hints at this witch learning sorcery, showing just how far people will go to earn money or power.
From the Prado manuscript: “Little by little she is making progress. She is already making her first steps and in time she will know as much as her teacher.”
A terrifying winged creature with numerous wailing heads on its back. As the manuscript suggests, there is little doubt people would be frightened if they saw this monster.
From the Prado manuscript: “Where is this infernal company going, filling the air with noise in the darkness of night? If it were daytime it would be quite a different matter and gun shots would bring the whole group of them to the ground; but as it is night, no one can see them.”
El Sueno de la Razon Produce Monstruos
(The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters)
Perhaps the most iconic work from “Los Caprichos,” the sleeper is actually Goya himself. Large owls and bats flutter around the artist while a huge witch’s cat watches on. Goya’s reason is dulled by sleep and “bedeviled by creatures that prowl in the dark,” according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
From the Prado manuscript: “Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the source of their wonders.”
Donde va mama?
(Where is mother going?)
A witch carried and escorted by odd, goblin-like denizens. The creep factor is somewhat muted by the absurdity of the image, especially the cat desperately clinging to the parasol, but still, is this a mother you want to run into?
From the Prado manuscript: “Mother has dropsy and they have sent her on an outing. God willing, she may recover.”
Ya es Hora
(It is Time)
The final installation of Goya’s series is perhaps the most shocking, like the last startling image of a nightmare before waking. Goya blurs reality with fantasy, depicting men in clergy garments with gruesome faces.
From the Prado manuscript: “Then when dawn threatens, each one goes on his way, Witches, Hobgoblins, apparitions and phantoms. It is a good thing that these creatures do not allow themselves to be seen except at night and when it is dark! Nobody has been able to find out where they shut themselves up and hide during the day. If anyone could catch a denful of Hobgoblins and were to show it in a cage at 10 o’clock in the morning in the Puerto del Sol, he would need no other inheritance.”
Interested in learning more or collecting works from by Francisco Goya? Contact our gallery consultants at (800) 521-9654, ext. 4 during business hours or firstname.lastname@example.org.