19 March 2011

To the Public

6 February 1799

A collection of prints of imaginary subjects, invented and etched by Don Francisco Goya. The author is convinced that it is as proper for painting to criticise human error and vice as it for poetry and prose to do so, although criticism is usually taken to be the province of literature. He has selected from amongst the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilised society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance, or self-interest have hallowed, those subjects which he feels to be the most suitable material for satire, and which, at the same time, stimulate the artist's imagination.

Since most of the subjects depicted in this work are not real, it is not unreasonable to hope that connoisseurs will readily overlook their defects.

The author has not followed the precedents of any other artist, nor has he been able to copy Nature itself. It is very difficult to imitate Nature, and a successful imitation is worthy of admiration. He who departs entirely from Nature will surely merit high esteem, since he has to put before the eyes of the public forms and poses which have only existed previously in the darkness and confusion of an irrational mind, or one which is beset by uncontrolled passion.

The public is not so ignorant of the Fine Arts that it needs to be told that the author has intended no satire of the personal defects of any specific individual in any of his compositions. Such particularised satire imposes undue limitations on an artist's talents, and also mistakes the way in which perfection is to be achieved through imitation in art.

Painting (like poetry) selects from among the universal that which it judges most appropriate for its purpose. It unites in a single imaginary being circumstances and characters which Nature presents distributed in many, and it is in this unity, skilfully contrived, that true imitation is achieved, by which the good artist acquires the title of inventor and not that of servile copyist. On sale at the perfume and liquor store, Calle del Desengano no. 1, at 320 r. for each set of 80 prints.

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