Los Desastres de la Guerra is Francisco de Goya’s (1746-1828) illustrates man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man, precipitated by Spain’s War of Independence against Napoleon’s forces (1808-1814), and suggests the complete collapse of the Age of Enlightenment. The original set of 85 etchings was most likely completed by Goya between 1810 and 1820, and entitled Fatales consequencias de la sangrienta guerra en España con Buonaparte. Y otros caprichos enfáticos. (Fatal consequences of Spain’s bloody war with Buonaparte. And other emphatic caprices). The set of proofs was bound and given to his friend Juan Agustín Ceán Bermúdez to review, and is currently located in the British Museum. The prints were not published in Goya’s lifetime. In 1863, the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando published the first edition of 80 aquatints as Los Desastres de la Guerra, bound as a book.
Over sixty years old and deaf when the war began, it is unlikely Goya witnessed firsthand all of the atrocities he depicts in the series, however his portrayal of the events under French occupation serve as profound statements on this war and on war in general. The first half of the plates renders the horrors of war and its effects; the subsequent plates illustrate famine as a consequence of war; the last group of plates depicts allegorical images referring to the trauma of the postwar period.
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