The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (Spanish: El sueño de la razón produce monstruos) is an aquatint by the Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya. Created between 1797 and 1799 for the Diario de Madrid,[2][3] it is the 43rd of the 80 aquatints making up the satirical Los Caprichos.[4]

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Spanish: El sueño de la razón produce monstruos
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes - The sleep of reason produces monsters (No. 43), from Los Caprichos - Google Art Project.jpg
ArtistFrancisco Goya
Yearc. 1799
TypeEtching, aquatint, drypoint and burin
Dimensions21.5 cm × 15 cm (​8 716 in × ​5 78 in)
LocationVarious print rooms have a print from the first edition. The one illustrated is at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.[1]


Many suggest that the artist Goya depicts himself asleep amidst his drawing tools, his reason dulled by slumber, bedeviled by creatures that prowl in the dark. The work includes owls that may be symbols of folly and bats symbolizing ignorance. Implied in Goya's preparatory inscription,[2] the artist's nightmare reflects his view of Spanish society, which he portrayed in the Caprichos as demented, corrupt, and ripe for ridicule.[5] The full epigraph for capricho No. 43 reads; "Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her [reason], she [fantasy] is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels."[6]

Occasionally the title phrase is rendered as "The dream of reason produces monsters", since the Spanish word "sueño" can mean either "sleep" or "dream".

Goya's etching and its title perhaps recall the words of Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) "For since this humour [melancholy, i.e. depression] can subdue reason, what won't our passions do once reason is darkened? ...if reason is wanting, madness results ..." ("The Book of her Foundations" [1573-6], 7, 2).[citation needed]

Preparatory drawingsEdit

Goya produced preparatory drawings for all the prints in the "Los caprichos" series.[7] One drawing suggests that The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters was being considered for use as the frontispiece of the collection, although in the event it was not used for this purpose in the printed version which starts with a self-portrait.

Technical aspectsEdit

As a set "Los caprichos" is notable for its use of aquatint. In The Sleep of Reason there is a contrast between the etched lines of the foreground and the areas of tone, produced by aquatint, which are used for the creatures in the background.


  1. ^ "The sleep of reason produces monsters (No. 43)".
  2. ^ a b Nehamas, Alexander (2001). ""The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters"". Representations. 74 (Spring).
  3. ^ "Goya - The Sleep of Reason". Archived from the original on 2012-01-07. Retrieved 2012-01-04.
  4. ^ The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 2013. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  5. ^ The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Francisco de Goya y Lucientes: The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters: Plate 43 of The Caprices (Los Caprichos)". Retrieved 2008-12-14.
  6. ^ Jensen, Robin M.; Vrudny, Kimberly J. (2009). Visual Theology: Forming and Transforming the Community Through the Arts. Liturgical Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-814-65399-9.
  7. ^ Caprichos. Goya. Drawings. "Only my Strength of Will Remains". Museo del Prado.

External linksEdit