Goya - Until Death
Hasta la Muerte
Caprichos Plate 55
Hasta la Muerte
Burnished aquatint etching with drypoint.
First edition published 1799.
Plate dimensions 215 x 150 mm
Text caption from the "Prado" etching version:
"She is quite right to fix herself to look pretty. It is her seventy-fifth birthday, and her girl friends are coming to see her."
"Hace muy bien de ponerse guapa. Son sus dias; cimple 75 anos, y bendran las amigitas a verla."
Goya used both the subjects of vanity of the elderly and the reflective powers of mirrors as a running theme through several pieces. Perhaps the most well known is his painting Las Vierjas (also called Que Tal? and simply Time). Fred Licht (among others) has pointed out the similarity of the flat rectangular mirror to the flat rectangular canvas, and how close the two are in function in certain pieces, especially Goya's The Family of King Carlos IV, where Goya seems to indicate that the viewer is in the position of a mirror upon which the subjects gaze, i.e., the painting is the mirrored reflection, not the actual setting (which, incidentally, includes Goya himself, much the way that the earlier great Spanish painter Velasquez had included himself into his painting Las Meninas).
Here in Caprichos 55, the subject is blind to both the actual state of her physical decay and the less than adoring attitudes of the male sycophants of which she is surrounded. The title indicates that no amount of visual evidence will deter the subject from the pursuit of her self-delusion. It has been suggested that the "real" subject of this image is the Dowager Duchess of Osuna, or even Queen María Luisa. However, the theme is such that it transcends any specific person as the caricature subject, and is both a comic mocking of, and a warning of, human hubris.
For further reading, see Goya and Mirrors.
"From this headlong seizure of life we should not expect a calm and refined art, nor a reflective one. Yet Goya was more than a Nietzschean egoist riding roughshod over the world to assert his supermanhood. He was receptive to all shades of feeling, and it was his extreme sensitivity as well as his muscular temerity that actuated his assaults on the outrageous society of Spain." From Thomas Craven's essay on Goya from MEN OF ART (1931).
"...Loneliness has its limits, for Goya was not a prophet but a painter. If he had not been a painter his attitude to life would have found expression only in preaching or suicide." From Andre Malroux's essay in SATURN: AN ESSAY ON GOYA (1957).
"Goya is always a great artist, often a frightening one...light and shade play upon atrocious horrors." From Charles Baudelaire's essay on Goya from CURIOSITES ESTRANGERS (1842).
"[An] extraordinary mingling of hatred and compassion, despair and sardonic humour, realism and fantasy." From the foreword by Aldous Huxley to THE COMPLETE ETCHINGS OF GOYA (1962).
"His analysis in paint, chalk and ink of mass disaster and human frailty pointed to someone obsessed with the chaos of existence..." From the book on Goya by Sarah Symmons (1998).
"I cannot forgive you for admiring Goya...I find nothing in the least pleasing about his paintings or his etchings..." From a letter to (spanish) Duchess Colonna from the French writer Prosper Merimee (1869).