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9. Goya: Secularization and the Aesthetics of Belief
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227 c h a p t e r 9 Goya: Secularization and the Aesthetics of Belief Anthony J. Cascardi A great many accounts of Goya’s career begin with an outline of his beginnings as a young painter in Zaragoza under the tutelage of José Luzán, his travels to Italy, and his subsequent return to Spain, where he enjoyed the support of his brother-in-law Francisco Bayeu, in Zaragoza and in Madrid. In Madrid, the neoclassicist painter Antón Raphael Mengs, then official court painter, reigned supreme in the world of official art and served as the de facto arbiter of taste. These early years are treated primarily for their biographical interest, and with but a few exceptions (including some surprising images in Goya’s Italian sketchbook that I have occasion to mention below) there is little reason to regard them otherwise. Goya’s career as an artist of consequence begins with his first court commissions—with the paintings he made between 1775 and 1792 as “cartoons” for tapestries that were to hang in various royal residences—once his formidable talent had already gained some recognition. From there it is common, and not entirely mistaken, to chart the evolution of a body of work that grows increasingly difficult and more modern as it grows increasingly dark. For one understanding of Goya’s work, the tapestry cartoons are indeed an important place to begin, not least because they model many of the 228 Anthony J. Cascardi subjects that Goya returns to with a far more critical eye over the course of his later career. But there is more to Goya’s work than the story of an artist’s darkening view of the world can tell, and more also than can be explained in terms of Goya’s refusal of the obligatory cheerfulness of his tapestry commissions on occasions when he was free to work as he wished. I say this in full view of Goya’s own statements about the importance of invention in art, both in his announcement for the Caprichos in the Diario de Madrid on 6 February 1799 (“inventadas y grabadas al agua fuerte por Don Francisco Goya [invented and engraved in aquatint by Don Francisco Goya]”) and in his earlier speech to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, where he famously proclaimed that “there are no rules in painting .” As he went on to say on that occasion, it is less important to adhere to convention than to recognize talent and to allow it to flourish freely (to “reward and protect he who excels in [the arts]; to hold in esteem the true Artist, to allow free rein to the genius of students who wish to learn them, without oppression, nor imposition of methods”).1 This statement is largely about Goya’s aversion to academic pedagogy and makes sense in the context of the academy’s expressed interest in reform. But there is something beyond the endorsement of raw talent and unstructured learning that needs to be taken into account when gauging Goya’s commitment to invention. To say that the Caprichos are invented means of course that Goya did not have prior models for the images. But equally important to grasp is the way in which Goya himself began to confront a series of inherited assumptions regarding the making of images, assumptions of the most fundamental sort. His works often incorporate particular views of the world as part of their thematic content; that is one basis for their critical work, and it is especially important in works that address the social world, including the Caprichos. But in addition to this, I want to suggest, Goya came relatively early in his career to reflect on the means by which any view of the world, including any view put forward under the guise of art, is constructed—invented—rather than “natural,” and invented in ways that are often concealed. This awareness may well have been enabled by the fact that eighteenthcentury perspective was not as normalizing as one might assume. Yet it was precisely the invented and constructed nature of the work of art that was largely concealed by the three traditions that provided the most important contexts for Goya’s early works: the tradition of religious painting, largely neoclassical in its formalism; the tradition of picturesque naturalism that forms the background for many of the tapestry cartoons; and the tradition of late baroque illusionism, best exemplified...