by Callot, Hogarth, Piranesi, and Goya
students in the Exhibition Seminar,
Department of Art and Art History, Grinnell College
Under the Direction of Assistant Professor of Art History, J. Vanessa Lyon
3 April—August 2, 2015
Bucksbaum Center for the Arts
Participants in the Exhibition Seminar Fall 2014:
Elizabeth Allen ‘16
Timothy McCall ‘15
Mai Pham ‘16
Maria Shevelkina ‘15
Dana Sly ‘15
Hannah Storch ‘16
Emma Vale ‘15
A Word on the Colors:
Echoing Enlightenment discourse, Against Reason places printmakers Jacques Callot,
William Hogarth, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and Francisco Goya y Lucientes in
conversation across national and temporal boundaries. Seen in this way, their printed
works trouble a monolithic conception of the Enlightenment as an age of pure progress
predicated on science and tolerance. Just as these four artists negotiated the strictures and
possibilities of the Age of Reason, we continue the process today.
To further enact the dialogue, we have chosen to highlight four specific themes
that encapsulate or complicate major Enlightenment concerns. Broader contexts of
Nationalism (blue), Order (orange), Aesthetics (green) and Religion (red) are signaled
through the colored mats framing each print and their duplication in this catalogue.The
historically appropriate palette was chosen based on surprisingly vivid and varied paint
colors in 18th
Century domestic interiors by Robert Adam and his contemporaries.
Our admittedly disorderly chromatic taxonomy is offered as a ‘color itinerary.’We
invite you to move through the exhibition in whatever irrational manner you choose!
But you are also encouraged to link the works through their mat colors. Following this
approach, viewers might discover unexpected connections between the images, whether
formal or conceptual, historical or technical. While we realize moving unsystematically
from wall to wall may go ‘against reason,’ we hope it will produce a new sense of the inter-
pictorial and thematic ways in which these remarkable artists speak to, and through, each
other to Faulconer visitors today.
Authors of the Catalogue Entries:
EJA Elizabeth Jane Allen ’16
TM Timothy J. McCall ’15
MPP Mai Phuong Pham ’16
MS Maria Shevelkina ’15
DBS Dana B. Sly ’15
HLS Hannah Lord Storch ’16
EEV Emma E. Vale ’15
Table of Contents
Preface ..................................................................................... 6
J. Vanessa Lyon
J. Vanessa Lyon
Jacques Callot ........................................................................ 12
William Hogarth................................................................... 30
Giovanni Battista Piranesi..................................................... 48
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes .............................................. 66
Works Cited .......................................................................... 84
Checklist of the Exhibition.................................................... 87
The curators warmly thank the following people, without whom this exhibition would not
Kay Wilson, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Grinnell College, for her expert
knowledge, generous advice, and invaluable oversight of the collection; Professor of Art,
Matthew Kluber, for an illuminating introduction to printmaking techniques. Professor
Jenny Anger, Assistant Professor Marika Knowles, and the members of the Department
of Art and Art History, for their support.
We are grateful as well to the staff of the Faulconer Gallery and especially, to the
incomparable Milton Severe, Director of Exhibition Design, who alternately entertained
and tempered our wild ideas with his usual humor and professionalism.Tilly Woodward,
Curator of Academic and Community Outreach, helped us consider the various ways
in which our exhibition might engage visitors. Lesley Wright, Director of the Faulconer
Gallery, offered us savvy guidance and practical advice at every turn; we also appreciate
the assistance of Associate Director, Dan Strong.
In Grinnell College’s Office of Communication, further thanks go to Jim Powers,
Director, for his longtime support. We are especially grateful to the talented Larissa Stal-
cup, graphic designer, for transforming our inchoate notions of an Enlightenment-style
museum catalogue into a publication of this quality.
Beyond the College, we were fortunate indeed to find a generous lending partner in
the The University of Iowa Museum of Art. UIMA’s Sarika Sugla, Assistant Curator of
the Legacies for Iowa Collections Sharing Project, was with us from the beginning and
introduced us ‘in person’ to the University’s excellent collection of works on paper. We
at Grinnell College also appreciate the continuing support of UIMA’s Chief Curator,
Kathleen A. Edwards.Thanks, too, to Heather V. Vermeulen for an elucidating discussion
century imagery of Atlantic slavery and ecology.
Finally, the student curators of the exhibition seminar extend their deepest thanks to
their families, friends, and Grinnell College professors—and this professor extends her
heartfelt appreciation to Elizabeth,Tim, Mai, Maria, Dana, Hannah, and Emma for their
big ideas, hard work, sparkling wit, and unflagging dedication at every stage of this truly
collaborative art historical endeavor.
– J. Vanessa Lyon
Seven student curators joined Assistant Professor of Art History,
J. Vanessa Lyon for the exhibition seminar of Fall 2014. What began as a rigorous and
enjoyable process of art historical study, writing, and collegial close-looking at some of the
most compelling 17th
century etchings and engravings in the distinguished
collection of Grinnell College, culminated in an exhibition designed to investigate the
varied, often counter-intuitive, print culture of the Enlightenment era. Our core selections
range from lesser-known prints by Hogarth and Piranesi, to signature images by Callot
and Goya. Students were responsible for all curatorial aspects of this exhibition, from
designing the gallery ‘hang’ to composing catalogue entries and wall texts.The exhibition’s
range and quality were enhanced by loans from the University of Iowa Museum of Art
through their Legacies for Iowa Collections Sharing Project. We find it fitting that this
lending initiative, generously supported by the Matthew Bucksbaum family, will bring
works from the UIMA to Grinnell College’s Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, home of
the Faulconer Gallery.
Callot’s lively, bravura draftsmanship may seem at odds with rigid Cartesian method.
Yet for some viewers his detailed architecture and diminutive, choreographed figures
anticipate a kind of journalistic truth-telling. Callot’s Miseries are thus widely seen as
both “bitter social commentaries” and descriptive and empirical accounts of the dreadful
conflicts of his age. Praised for his condemnation of the “religious zeal that has fueled the
violence” of war, the Baroque artist is accordingly presented as a proto-secularist with a
healthy disdain for the Catholic Church verging on anti-clericalism.3
Callot and his Miseries are interpreted differently here.
In her provocative and original reading of Callot’s Catholicism, for example, Mai
Pham deploys historical and formal analysis to suggest that the (evidently Franciscan)
friars who populate many of the Miseries can be understood as benevolent forces of
forgiveness rather than mere stand-ins for a feeble and corrupt religious institution.This
would be especially intriguing if Callot’s rogue soldiers are meant to represent enemy
French Protestant Huguenots. Elizabeth Allen takes on another knee-jerk response to
Callot’s graphic violence. Confronting assertions of the artist’s unstinting realism, Allen
provides examples of his intention to ‘aestheticize,’ or make visually attractive, even the
most potentially gory and horrifying scenes.The viciousness and destruction portrayed
in these prints, she claims, should not prevent us from noticing Callot’s canny appeals to
Renaissance art and his desire to combine narrative terror and visual pleasure.
Born a little more than a century after Callot, William Hogarth (1697-1764), the
maverick British painter, printmaker, and art writer, is more familiar to many graphic
arts enthusiasts than his prolific predecessor from Lorraine. Yet Callot’s fluid, detailed
etching style and efficiently elegant handling of line were highly influential on the young
Hogarth, who often copied his prints.The British artist knew the Miseries well and had
also studied Callot’s massive multipart wartime treatment of the Siege of La Rochelle
(1628). However much he protested the invasion of his homeland by fussy and affected
French taste, Hogarth quite successfully, if disingenuously, translated the decorative
French rococo into a decidedly hardier English vernacular. As Dana Sly demonstrates in
her compelling analyses of Hogarth’s 1738 print series, The Times of the Day (an edition
dating from Hogarth’s “lifetime” newly acquired by Grinnell College and shown here for
the first time) Hogarth draws on ‘Frenchness’ even as he critiques it in the name of British
nationalism. Sly also cleverly identifies formal citations of Callot in the theatrical setting
of Hogarth’s last of the Four Stages of Cruelty (1751). Elsewhere in this proto-Gothic
cautionary tale, Hogarth’s heartrending imagery shows that the torture of animals—
creatures believed by Descartes to lack souls, and therefore feelings—rapidly escalates to
cruelty to people, for which the villainous English Nero is justly sent to his tomb.
The bizarre and idiosyncratic architectural visions of Giovanni Battista Piranesi
(1720-1778) may seem far removed from the meaty moral fare of Hogarth’s London.
Here again, however, formal consonances are appreciable in the works of these ostensibly
antithetical artists.Take for example, the imposing triumphal arch in Hogarth’s Gate
of Calais (1748), a compositional and rhetorical framing device that will reappear
continuously in Piranesi’s views as a pictorial ode to Roman solidity and engineering.
Emma Vale considers Piranesi’s oblique view of one of Rome’s most recognizable
3 Theodore K. Rabb, “Artists and Warfare: A Study of Changing Values in Seventeenth-Century Europe,”
Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 75, No. 6 (1985): 87.
‘Je suis Callot’:
What Only Art Can Do
“What Reason weaves, by Passion is undone.”
–Alexander Pope, Essay on Man and Other Poems (1732-34)
e can trace many of the origins of the European Enlightenment to René
Descartes’ (1596-1650) Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s
Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences, first published in 1637. Here, the
French philosopher famously contends: Je pense, donc je suis (I think, therefore I am).1
Descartes’ unflagging quest for certainty, distrust of the senses, and determined privileging
of mind over body proved fertile notions for many Enlightenment authors and scientists.
Yet for the French philosopher’s artist contemporary, Jacques Callot (1592/3-1635), it
was bodies—and the feelings aroused by depictions of their use and abuse—that mattered
most.Through his virtuosic rendering of theatrical gestures, telling physiognomies, and
dynamic, almost animate, clothing Callot employed the human figure to create what
Donald Posner describes as “empathetic responses in the spectator.”2
Callot was born in Nancy, in the then-independent Duchy of Lorraine (today’s
France). Like Descartes, who was trained by the Jesuits, he received a demanding
Catholic education. Much of Callot’s life was touched by religious and political strife,
in particular the Thirty Years’War that raged in Europe from 1618-1648.The prints by
Callot included in this exhibition are drawn from his celebrated series, the eighteen-part,
Les Misères et les malheurs de la guerre. The Miseries of War as these small-scale prints are
known, was published in 1633, just four years before Descartes’ Discourse.
1 Ian Buchanan, “Enlightenment,” In A Dictionary of Critical Theory, Oxford University Press, 2010.
2 Donald Posner, “Jacques Callot and the Dances Called Sfessania,” The Art Bulletin, Vol. 59,
No. 2 (Jun., 1977): 215.
This Introduction’s title, ‘Je suis Callot’ alludes of course to the recent acts of
terrorism in Paris, where twelve people (ten staff and two police officers) were killed in
and around the office of the French weekly, Charlie Hebdo.The magazine was evidently
targeted for its history of publishing unabashedly offensive cartoons described by an
American journalist as “anti-authoritarian, anti-religious, and anti-institutional.”1
French cartoonists were, to varying degrees, following in the footsteps of Callot, Hogarth,
Piranesi, and Goya seems obvious. It is equally apparent that without Enlightenment
and post-Enlightenment ideals such as the liberation of presses and markets from
governmental control, radical, button-pushing, counter-cultural publications such as
Charlie Hebdo could not exist.
In the aftermath of the French tragedy ‘free speech’ became the rallying cry. But the
enduring political value of ‘free images’ was also at stake. As these four artists remind
us, wars of all kinds—civil, religious, cultural—have been fought for, with, and against
pictures. While some prints in this exhibition appeal to written texts and many invoke
historical events or philosophical notions, they refer just as often to sophisticated aesthetic
strategies and enduring artistic traditions. Anything but mere illustrations or objective
accounts of the people, places, and ideas represented, they rely, in other words, on the
knowledge of visual culture. We therefore invite you to approach and enjoy these works
on their own terms, as primary sources for the study of the Enlightenment. We also
encourage you, if moved, to go against the reasonableness of chronology and progress in
order to draw inter-pictorial connections within and between the prints in a manner their
creators would not only have appreciated but quite possibly intended from the start.
– J. Vanessa Lyon
1 http://gawker.com/what-is-charlie-hebdo-and-why-a-mostly-complete-histo-1677959168. Accessed
February 11, 2015.
triumphal monuments, the tripartite Arch of Constantine (313 C.E.). Here, she
argues, the artist’s skewed perspective confounds rather than clarifies our notion of the
façade and its famously grafted-on imperial portraits in a decidedly anti-Enlightenment
manner. If Piranesi’s tumbledown ‘modern’ shack disallows a timeless view of an ancient
arch, it is a strategy to which he will return in the prints known as Grotteschi. As Vale
explains, in these exuberantly ornamental etchings, Piranesi “represents the decay of
various examples of ancient Greek culture, which fall victim to time itself.”
As recent scholarship has shown, some of Piranesi’s most intricate and seemingly
precise architectural views play fast and loose with the structural ‘truth’ of the buildings
depicted. Further broadening our notion of the architect’s aesthetics, Tim McCall
illuminates the Venice-born Piranesi’s ambivalent antiquarian fact-finding. McCall
situates the prints in a cosmopolitan Enlightenment context where, true to the growing
historical interest in national origins, the relative cultural merits of ancient Greece and
antique Rome found fervent support in France and Italy, respectively. Drawing our
attention to the ways in which the “imaginative collides with the archeological” McCall
describes Piranesi’s combination of multiple printmaking techniques and sublimely
subliminal imagery to complicate the boundaries between scientific observation and
Few familiar with the darkly whimsical and damning 1777 Caprichos (Caprices)
of Francisco de Goya (1748-1828) will be surprised to find the Spanish painter and
printmaker similarly blurring art and life with a moral message in mind. Goya’s 65
etchings called the Desastres de la Guerra (Disasters of War) were undoubtedly inspired
by Callot’s Miseries. Like the Miseries, Goya’s vehemently anti-war Disasters reveal
astonishingly little about the precise political and confessional allegiances of their maker.
However nightmarishly surreal their imagery, Goya’s Disasters indisputably relate to the
actual events through which he lived during the Napoleonic invasion of Spain in the
Peninsular War of 1808-1814.
Like Callot’s Miseries, Goya’s Disasters can be understood as both a particular
history and a universal allegory. It follows perhaps, as a close reading of Hannah Storch’s
entries will show, that Goya’s political and philosophical views can vary in the portrayal
of similar subjects and from print to print in the same series. In the Disasters, Storch
argues, the figure of the noblewoman may stand for Spain’s vulnerability to the French
soldiers who devastated Spanish forces and raped and pillaged in Spanish towns. While
in (certain of) the Caprices, by contrast, noblewomen may represent ignorance, idleness,
and foolish resistance to the Enlightenment’s promised freedom from outmoded ideas.
Maria Shevelkina’s careful formal analysis and willingness to examine the Spanish artist’s
‘duality’ sheds additional light on Goya’s—at times simultaneously—pro, counter, and
anti-Enlightenment visual rhetoric. As Shevelkina writes of Goya’s ghastly dismembered
bodies: “Men are left, the last of their dignity stripped, decaying in and along with
nature: the only fruit of these trees is the dead man, the violence of human nature.”
Throughout his lifetime Goya’s political allegiances shifted between King and Country.
As this interpretation suggests, Goya—surely among the most humane of all artist-social
critics—was a humanist in some but not all senses. If ‘man’ is the only animal endowed
with reason, he seems to say, little good it has done us.
Enrollment of the Troops
In diaries discovered after his death, Jacques Callot refers to the series now known as
Les Grandes Misères de la Guerre as, rather simply, la vie du soldat: the life of a soldier
(Choné 1992). Art Historians debate whether Callot intended his series to represent the
contemporaneous Thirty Years’War, which erupted in 1618, or as a more general portrayal
of war regardless of time or place (Hornstein 2005). Regardless of the answer, in the first
print of the series Callot depicts the enlistment of civilians, the moment when soldiers are
The artist composed a wide-angled scene. Beginning at left, a throng of men gathers
around a table to enlist in the army. A commander points them in the direction of the
meticulously ordered battalions, where they will find their place. Callot renders each
soldier posed in synchronized perfection, his pike ruler-straight, piercing the sky like
a neat pinprick.There is a clear hierarchy between the commanders and the soldiers
in their “disciplined formation” at rapt attention to their superiors (Hornstein 2005).
Beneath a tree at right, more officers stand around a table, strategizing for future battles.
Shrouded menacingly by the shade of the outstretched boughs, two watch silently from
behind, weapons in hand.The orderliness and overall readability of the scene provide little
indication of the impending horrors Callot will show.Though soldiers now proudly stand
tall, we will soon see their complete physical and moral deterioration.
Grinnell’s unique collection of the Misères features printed ornamental frames
inscribed with the Latin “FRUCTUS BELLI,” which translates as “The Fruits of War.”
Each decorative frame has three formerly blank spaces—at right, left, and beneath the
print—which allow for individual customization by carefully pasting in another small
Callot etching as the owner pleased. An array of Callot’s wonderfully intricate and
miniscule etchings would have been printed specifically for this purpose.This ornamental
reframing demonstrates that the Misères were considered ideal for aestheticization by 18th
century collectors despite their dark and often horrifying subject matter.
1.1 Jacques Callot (French, c.1592-1635), Enrollment of the Troops (L’Enrôlement des Troupes),
pl. 2 from Les Grandes Misères de la Guerre, 1633, etching, GCAC 1987.4.2.
[Ce Metal que Pluton dans ses veines enſerre, Qui faict en meſme temps, et la paix,
et la guerre, Attire le ſoldat, ſans creinte des dangers, Du lieu de ſa naißance, aux Pais
eſtrangers Ou s’eſtant embarqué pour ſuivre la Milice Il faut que ſa vertu ſ’arme contre le
[That metal which Pluto encloses within his veins, which at the same time causes peace
and war, draws the soldier, without fear of danger, from the place of his birth to foreign
lands, where, having embarked to follow the military, his virtue must arm itself against
1 Unless otherwise noted, all translations of Callot’s captions are found in Jacques Callot:
Prints & Related Drawings (Washington DC: National Gallery of Art, 1975).
Pillage of a Farmhouse
Looking closely at this print, viewers may be overwhelmed by Callot’s graphic depiction
of the “rape, abduction, murder, and foul deeds” that the caption describes committed by
soldiers inside a farmhouse. Here, the orderliness of Enrollment of the Troops is completely
gone.The eye does not easily sweep the image in a left-to-right progression; rather it darts
around back and forth, up and down, moving like the ruthless soldiers from attack to
attack. We catch each assault at its climax: Along the back wall, soldiers rip off a woman’s
dress. At the far right, a man begs for mercy before a dagger is plunged into his skull.
Through a doorway, a man pins a woman against a wall in order to rape her.
A lower ceiling, from which pans, baskets, and other kitchen objects hang, separates
the foreground from the background.Two soldiers, cloaked in shadow (similar to the two
silent soldiers behind the commanders in Enrollment of the Troops), disturb these domestic,
everyday objects. One prods at them with his pike, while the other climbs a ladder to
pluck a utensil from the ceiling.The ladder in this scene evokes the famous print known
as The Hanging, where perhaps the same soldier occupies the ladder propped up against
the makeshift gallows, this time never to descend again. Roles reversed, the soldier—not
the utensil—will be hanged, a punishment for his crimes in this house.
Although the eye’s mad dash around the image may prove exhausting, there is an
artfulness to Callot’s gory spectacle. In the foreground at far left, a woman and her child
attempt to run from a soldier, who yanks the woman’s long hair. She raises her desperate
hand in a gesture recalling Titian’s celebrated Rape of Lucretia. The formal citation may
indicate that Callot is as interested in drawing on artistic tradition to create a beautiful
print as he is in preaching any sort of moral message. As a further example, the hanged
man we see about to be consumed by smoke at right, is roasting over a flame like an
animal. His blasé murderers look on, preparing the next victim (detail 1.2). Callot endows
the horrid torture with a soft and fragile beauty, sensitively using a careful light line to
create the figure’s elegant form.The artist attends to the folds of his tattered clothes and
the way his shirt falls open to reveal a diamond-shaped patch of flesh that mimics the
shape of his overall form. Delicately etched plumes of smoke unfurl from his chrysalis-
like corpse like grandiose wings. In this way, Callot at once graphically condemns the
peasant to a cruel death while evoking his rebirth through an allusion to the butterfly, a
Christian symbol of resurrection.
1.2 Jacques Callot (French, c.1592-1635), Pillage of a Farmhouse (Le Pillage d’un Ferme),
pl. 5 from Les Grandes Misères de la Guerre, 1633, etching, GCAC 1987.4.5.
[Voyla les beaux exploits de ces cœurs inhumains
Ils rauagent par tout rien nechappe a leur mains
L’un pour avoir de l’or, inuente des ſupplices,
L’autre à mil forfaicts anime ſes complices;
Et tous dun meſme accord commettent mechamment
Le vol, le rapt, le meurtre, et le violement.]
[Here are the fine exploits of these inhuman hearts.
They ravage everywhere. Nothing escapes their hands.
One invents tortures to gain gold,
another encourages his accomplices to perform a thousand heinous crimes,
and all with one accord viciously commit
theft, kidnapping, murder, and rape.]
Devastation of a Monastery
Among other definitions, the Eucharist, a sacrament central to Catholic worship, is an
outward sign of an inward grace that commemorates Christ’s sacrifice. In the dirt at
the center of this image, Callot represents sacramental and liturgical objects associated
with the Mass being stolen and disrespectfully handled. Among the loot are two altar
candlesticks and an aspersorium, a vessel meant for the holy water. Cruets, small vessels
for the holy wine, appear in a basket to the right of a crucifix. Nearby, three disrespectful
soldiers carry pillaged objects in a mock procession.The first man hauls a sack of looted
liturgical goods, the second, wearing a chasuble (the outer garment worn by a priest
during the Eucharist), carries a Bible, and the third carries a crucifix. Near the church’s
entrance, a soldier gleefully raises a stolen chalice meant for the consecrated wine (detail
1.3). At right, four soldiers surround a priest, miserable, captured, and bound.This scene,
echoing the biblical mocking of Christ before the Crucifixion, emphasizes the insolent
soldiers’ ridicule of Catholic clerics.
The insults continue at left where “disconsolate virgins” are dragged away from the
church’s holy sanctuary “to be raped.” At the center of these abuses, two soldiers restrain
a nun onto a horse. Her outstretched arm, reaching futilely for help, is a conventional
representation of abducted women in Renaissance art, e.g. Giambologna’s Florentine
Rape of the Sabine Women. To the right of this group, a screaming nun flees from a faceless
soldier who is about to strike her with his sword. While the nuns’ splayed arms and
open-mouthed cries underscore their horror and anguish, the soldiers’ unreadable facial
expressions suggest nonchalance and a lack of remorse for their brutality.
Worse still, the soldiers have set the church, the print’s focal point, on fire. In that the
Church is metaphorically considered the “Bride of Christ,” the soldiers’ desecration of the
church building parallels their rape of the nuns. Yet although the church burns, the statues
of saints and apostles and the cross on the roof, as well as the plaque with the church’s
name, S. Maria, remain intact.These seemingly indestructible symbols thus suggest that,
despite attempts to destroy it, the Catholic Church itself remains unassailable.
1.3 Jacques Callot (French, c.1592-1635), Devastation of a Monastery (Dévastation d’un
Monastère), pl. 6 from Les Grandes Misères de la Guerre, 1633, etching, GCAC 1987.4.6.
[Icy par un effort ſacrilege et barbare
Ces Demons enragez, et d’une humeur auare
Pillent, et bruſlent tout, abbattent les Autels;
Se mocquent du reſpect qu’on doit aux Immortels,
Et tirent des ſaincts lieux les Vierges deſolees
Quils oſent enleuer pour eſtre violées.1
[Here, in a sacrilegious and barbarous action,
these maddened, avaricious demons
pillage and burn everything, demolishing the altars,
laugh at the respect due to the Immortals,
and drag from the holy places the disconsolate virgins,
whom they dare to carry off to be violated.]
1 “Violées” can also be translated as “raped.”
An interesting dialogue can be obvserved between The Hospital and Devastation of a
Monastery: In the former print, the church burns while the soldiers’ bodies remain whole.
In the subsequent print, the bodies of the soldiers who had violated the church are now
broken and crippled while the church stands intact.This reversal of church and soldiers
may allude to the divine retribution that Callot believed would befall those who commit
At the center of this print, the dome-shaped structure of a church calls to mind
the form of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in
Florence, both historic and important Catholic churches. Callot would have been known
both of these churches since he studied in Rome and later worked in Florence at the
court of Cosimo II de’ Medici (Russell 1975). Not only does the resemblance of Callot’s
church to these hallowed basilicas connote its symbolic power, the inscription on the
church’s pediment reveals that it has the same name—S. Maria—as the burning church
in Devastation.Thus, the reoccurrence of this church with a slightly modified appearance
suggests that it has been rebuilt, a suggestion of the indestructible nature of the Catholic
Church also perceptible in Devastation of a Monastery.
Callot’s enemy soldiers, once mighty and capable of wreaking havoc, are now
wretched and crippled: some have peg legs and crutches while others crawl on all
fours like animals (detail 1.4).Their pitiful fate shows that they have reaped the divine
punishment for their pillage and destruction of a sacred site.Those who had mocked
friars and priests now seek help from a cleric at the hospital entrance and are not
turned away. Accordingly, the priest may symbolize the grace and mercy of the Catholic
Church that is literally inscribed on the church’s façade: “MATER GRATIAE MATER
MISERICORDIAE TV NOS AB HOSTE…”This Latin text, derived from a Catholic
prayer (or divine office) of the Virgin Mary, translates as: “Mother of grace, Mother of
mercy, shield me from the enemy, and receive me at the hour of my death,” a prayer that
seems to duplicate the sentiments of these dejected soldiers.
1.4 Jacques Callot (French, c.1592-1635), The Hospital (L’Hôpital), pl. 15 from Les Grandes
Misères de la Guerre, 1633, etching, GCAC 1987.4.15.
[Voyez que c’eſt du monde et combien de hazars
Perſecutent ſans fin les enfans du Dieu Mars
Les uns eſtropiez, ſe treinent ſur la terre
Les autres plus heureux ſ’eſleuent a la guerre
Les uns ſur un gibet meurent dun coup fatal,
Et les autres ſ’en vont du Camp a L’Hoſpital.]
[See how the world goes, and how chance
constantly pursues the children of the god Mars.
Some, crippled, drag themselves along the ground.
Others, more fortunate, receive promotion in war.
Some die on a gallows by a fatal blow,
and others go from the camp to the hospital.]
Callot ends this portion of the Misères by illustrating the public execution of soldiers on
the breaking wheel.The wheel was a punishment for murder, rape, and aggravated theft,
a seemingly suitable retribution for a soldier who had brutally murdered and tortured
peasants, raped helpless nuns, pillaged a house, and looted sacred liturgical objects
In the 17th
century, death on the wheel (along with hanging, burning, and various
forms of dismemberment) was considered vulgar and disgraceful (Merback 1999).
Unlike the honorable death of decapitation by sword, the wheel rendered the body of
the criminal immobile.Tied to the spokes of the wheel, he died bound and helpless, in
contrast to the man who received the fatal stroke of the sword free and untethered.This
kind of death required the “honorable self-control” required to remain still so that the
executioner could deliver an accurate blow (Merback, 1999). Because decapitation gave
the condemned an opportunity to die “gloriously,” as one dies in battle, it was reserved for
noblemen and aristocrats (Merback 1999).Thus, the five forms of execution represented
in Callot’s series show the purportedly appropriate punishment for the crimes committed
and the social standing of those condemned.
Although these ‘just’ punishments were meant to restore social order and deter
future crimes, they were also undoubtedly public spectacles. Gruesome and terrifying,
the breaking wheel in particular completely mangled the criminal’s body. After the
executioner shattered the bones of the condemned, he was abandoned on the wheel for
birds to scavenge his decaying flesh before he died slowly from dehydration. A broadsheet
published in 1607 describes the sickening punishment that transforms the gory victim
“into a sort of huge screaming puppet writhing in rivulets of blood, a puppet with four
tentacles, like a sea monster of raw, slimy and shapeless flesh mixed with splinters of
smashed bones” (Merback 1999).
Yet Callot does not depict this bloody aspect of the torture. Instead, he shows the
condemned soldier with a noose around his neck, signifying that he has received a special
“grace” called a retentum, during which he will be fatally strangled after the second or
third blow to avoid the excruciating pain (Ruff 2001).
Accompanying him on the platform, a priest in a biretta hat blesses the condemned.
In the foreground at left, cloaked figure, perhaps a Franciscan friar, clasps the arm of a
soon-to-be executed soldier who holds a cross. In an era when religious devotion was
greatly valued, it appears that for Callot, crucial to justice is the chance for the convicted
to ask for forgiveness for his sins before execution.This is the only way to save the rogue
soldiers from eternal damnation, the penalty, according to Catholic doctrine, for death
1.5 Jacques Callot (French, c.1592-1635), The Wheel (La Roue), pl. 14 from Les Grandes Misères de la guerre,
1633, etching GCAC 1987.4.14.
[L’oeil touſiours ſurueillant de la diuine Aſtrée
Bannit entierement le dueil d’une contrée,
Lors que tenant l’Eſpée, et la Balance en main
Elle iuge et punit le voleur inhumain,
Qui guette les paßans, les meurtrit, et ſ’en ioüe,
Puis luy meſme deuient le ioüet dune roüe.]
[The ever-watchful eye of divine Astraea [Justice]
completely banishes mourning from a region
when, holding the sword and scales in her hands,
she judges and punishes the inhuman thief
who lies in wait for peasants, murders them and toys with them,
then becomes himself the plaything of a wheel.]
In this horrific yet strangely elegant image, Callot depicts what becomes of vicious
soldiers who are hanged for their crimes, dangling from this tree like “wretched fruits” of
war. At the same time, Callot appears to allude to the execution of Jesus by crucifixion in
order to evoke the possibility of salvation after death—for even the most nefarious men.
With its central position and outstretched branches, Callot’s monumental tree is
reminiscent of a cross, the symbol of Christianity. Callot’s tree also implies that the wood
of Christ’s man-made cross came from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.The
gambling men to the right of the tree thus correspond to the soldiers who cast lots for
Christ’s robe while the hanged soldiers, characterized in the caption as “thieves,” evoke
the good and bad thieves who were crucified along with Christ (Wolfthal 1977). More
importantly, the fact that these men are “infamous and lost” suggests that they now need
Throughout Callot’s series, Franciscan friars (whose symbol, the T-shaped Tau cross,
is invoked by the tree’s form), spiritually guide the condemned soldiers and offer them the
hope of salvation. Despite the soldiers’ crimes against the Church, the friars listen to their
last confessions and pardon them.The tree’s presence in this print reinforces this theme
of salvation. For example, in the Biblical book of Ezekiel, God instructs an angel to go
through Jerusalem and mark the faithful with the Tau symbol to distinguish them from
the rest of the inhabitants who will be killed for their wickedness (Ezekiel 9: 4-6).The
fact that two of the scenes with Franciscan friars occur in the center of the print while the
third is magnified in the right foreground may demonstrate Callot’s intention to valorize
these Franciscan acts of mercy. Moreover, his portrayal of these religious as compassionate
and benevolent reflects Callot’s strong connection with the Order of Friars Minor—not
not only did he execute devotional prints for them, two of his brothers were also members
of the Third Order of Saint Francis (Russell 1975).
Arguably, therefore, Callot unstintingly represents at least certain forms of
Catholicism as a force of good that grants spiritual peace during times of war and
violence. In this manner, he embodies the religious sentiment of his hometown, Lorraine,
which remained both the enemy of Louis XIII and a Catholic Stronghold throughout the
Counter-Reformation (Russell 1975).
1.6 Jacques Callot (French, c.1592-1635), The Hanging (La Pendaison), pl. 11 from Les Grandes Misères de la
guerre, 1633, etching, GCAC 1987.4.11.
[A la fin ces Voleurs infames et perdus1
Comme fruits malheureux a cet arbre pendus
Monſtrent bien que le crime (horrible et noire engeance)
Eſt luy meſme inſtrument de honte et de vengeance,
Et que ceſt le Deſtin des hommes vicieux
D’eſprouuer toſt ou tard la iuſtice des Cieux.]
[Finally these infamous and abandoned thieves,
hanging from this tree like wretched fruit,
show that crime (horrible and black species)
is itself the instrument of shame and vengeance,
and that it is the fate of corrupt men
to experience the justice of Heaven sooner or later.]
1 “Perdus” can be translated literally as “lost.”
Revenge of the Peasants
This print concludes the section of Les Misères illustrating the punishments endured by
the soldiers for their crimes. Here, their peasant victims take revenge with the same level
of violence enacted upon them by the soldiers. At center, a man disembowels his foe.
Naked and mangled corpses litter the ground. But this horrible revolt is given an idyllic
setting in a clearing between aged trees with bountiful foliage that provides welcome
shade on a beautiful, sunny day. In the distance, we see the peaceful village from which
the frenzied peasants have come, seemingly untouched by any conflict. Ultimately, the eye
rests upon a single hanged figure, dangling like a perverse ornament on an outstretched
In the Misères, Callot’s depiction of war shows what each scene might have looked
like to an artist. In reality, the event represented in Revenge of the Peasants would be a
chaotic bloodbath, clouded by gun smoke, obscuring our view of the action. Few would
be able to appreciate the details to which Callot attends: feathers peeking out of a hat,
the textured bark of remarkable, storybook trees. Callot thus presents an aestheticized re-
imagining of madness and gore.
His saintly hanged man, framed by a halo of pure white, does not truly resemble a
corpse (detail 1.7). Lacking earthly substance, he is composed of a few simple strokes,
light as the feathery wisp of hair that falls from his face. Callot was well versed in
contemporary theater and dance (Posner 1977) and this delicate corpse resembles
a dancer, his feet swaying in the wind as if about to perform an arabesque. In the
foreground to the right, Callot again cites his artistic predecessors.The falling figure
resembles the man who sleeps peacefully in Raphael’s Vision of a Knight, further evidence
perhaps of Callot’s interest in the artfulness rather than the accuracy or realism of his
1.7 Jacques Callot (French, c.1592-1635), Revenge of the Peasants (Le Revanche des Paysans), pl. 17 from
Les Grandes Misères de la Guerre, 1633, etching, GCAC 1987.4.17.
[Apres pluſieurs degaſt par les ſoldats commis
A la fin les Paiſans, quils ont pour ennemis
Les guettent à l’eſcart et par une ſurpriſe
Les ayant mis à mort les mettent en chemiſe,
Et ſe vengent ainsi contre ces Malheureux
Des pertes de leurs biens, qui ne viennent que deux.]
[After the soldiers have caused much destruction,
finally the peasants, whom they have treated as enemies,
await them in ambush in a secluded place,
and having killed them by surprise,
strip them to their shirts,
thus avenging themselves on these unfortunate men
for the loss of their property, due solely to them.]
Distribution of Awards
Many scholars agree that Callot’s examination of the life of a soldier comes to a moral
conclusion in this final print (Wolfthal 1977).The caption describes the scene as an
“example of a leader full of gratitude, who punishes the wicked and rewards the good.”
Throughout the Misères, we have witnessed the exploits of the unjust soldiers and their
punishments. In this print, however, we view a ceremony in which soldiers are deservedly
rewarded for good or heroic martial deeds, at least in the eyes of the king. While the
caption (which like the others, Callot did not write but likely approved) proposes such a
reading, a closer inspection of the print leads to a very different understanding.
At center, we see a king gazing absently forward, his scepter extended to the soldier
on his right (detail 1.8).The crown of this blousy monarch makes him resemble a jester,
as does the odd, jovial expression he wears.The king He is youthful, and might have
reminded contemporary French viewers of Louis XIII, who had succeeded to the throne
at the age of eight and was still a teenager when the Thirty Years’War began. A soldier
kneels to the king’s left, in the process of receiving a medal from this undistinguished
joke of a monarch for his conduct during the war. A courtier places the noose-like ribbon
around the soldier’s neck in a synonymous gesture to the other “reward” of punishment
bestowed on the condemned man in The Hanging. The gestures are so similar that one
must question whether there is in fact a difference in the nature of the two soldiers’ deeds
during the war.
What and who defines a good or a bad soldier? Despite the importance of this
ceremony, few in the room pay attention, instead disinterestedly conversing amongst
themselves. In the next century, Hogarth’s Reward of Cruelty will revisit the question of
just reward and punishment in a similarly raucous and theatrical setting, there, too, a
powerful presider is unable to direct his students’ attention to the moral significance of
what lies before them.
1.8 Jacques Callot (French, c.1592-1635), Distribution of Awards (Distribution des Récompences), pl. 18 from
Les Grandes Misères de la Guerre, 1633, etching, GCAC 1987.4.18.
[Cet exemple d’un Chef plein de reconnoißance,
Qui punit les méchans et les bons recompance,
Doit piquer les ſoldats d’un aiguillon d’honneur,
Puis que de la vertu, depend tout leur bon-heur,
Et qu’ordinairement ils reçoiuent du Vice,
La honte, le meſpris, et le dernier ſupplice.]
[This example of a grateful leader,
who punishes evil and rewards the good,
should prick soldiers with the goad of honor,
since all their happiness depends on virtue
and they ordinarily receive from vice,
shame, scorn, and the extreme penalty.]
2.1 William Hogarth, The Inspection, plate 3 of Marriage A-la-Mode, 1743, etching and engraving,
In his narrative series, Marriage A-la-Mode, based on Samuel Richardson’s 1740 novel
Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded, Hogarth inverts a tale of steadfast virtue. He chronicles
the doomed marriage of a viscount and a wealthy merchant’s daughter as they steadily
descend into greed, vanity, and adultery culminating in the lady’s death in the final plate
(Paulson 1993). As was his frequent commercial practice, the prints in the series were
reversed replicas of larger, corresponding paintings. Hogarth later advertised and sold the
prints at a lower price.
In “The Inspection,” the third of six plates in the series, the viscount visits an
apothecary without his wife to discuss his contraction of venereal disease, presumably
from extramarital sex.The viscount brandishes a pillbox as he haggles over the treatment
with the apothecary. His exposed neck wears a large, black patch. In Hogarth’s time,
patches were used both to cover syphilis scars and as cosmetic beauty spots (Rosenthal
2001).The dual associations of the accessory label him as both vain and sexually diseased.
The viscount carelessly waves his walking stick as one might a sword.To his right, a young
prostitute dabs at a syphilitic sore.
The apothecary, Dr. Rock, was a living, contemporary figure known for syphilis
treatments. A favorite villain of Hogarth’s, Rock is also illustrated in The Four Times of
Day (Foster 1944). In “The Inspection,” Hogarth mocks the quack doctor’s ineffectiveness
as a man of science by surrounding him with taxonomical disorder.
Rock’s office is thus portrayed as an old-fashioned wunderkammer. Wunderkammern,
or cabinets of curiosities, were collections of specimens intended for marvel and study.
Popular amongst Enlightenment intellectuals, the collections functioned as private, early
museums (Lauder 2011). In “The Inspection,” a lascivious skeleton embraces and gropes
an anatomical model who peers through a cabinet.The walls and cabinet are adorned with
ponderous and useless objects and instruments: a hat, a pair of unmatched shoes, a model
head, a stack of bricks and a pair of paintings depicting a two-headed hermaphrodite
and a man with a head growing from his chest. In the bottom left corner, an open book
explains that the elaborate machine below it is intended for resetting shoulders and
certified by the Royal Academy of Paris (detail 3.1). Hogarth’s nationalistic antipathy for
the French posits the machine as a telling object of ridicule.Through the meaningless
assortment, Hogarth satirizes the wunderkammer’s failed attempts at encyclopedic
study. Rock’s integrity as a medical professional is likewise questioned by rendering his
collection senseless and hopelessly disjointed.
Strolling Actresses Dressing In a Barn
In the 18th
century, the term “stroller” referred to travelling actors, often considered to
be exemplars of social disorder.The setting of the old barn with its haphazard clutter
serves as a backdrop for the pre-performance chaos of a grand array of actresses in a state
of undress. A playbill at right informs the viewer that they are preparing for their last
performance of “The Devil to Pay in Heaven” before the play was banned by the 1737
licensing act in Britain. Hogarth chooses to portray solely actresses in the roles of Diana,
Jupiter, Cupid, Siren, Aurora, Flora, Apollo, Night, Juno, and Ganymede (Kiaer 2001).
The actresses can be identified by their attributes and the symbols with which they are
adorned, an orderly iconography for a scene so disorganized.
While Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn may be read as a satire of womanly beauty,
Hogarth gives the disarray within the print an underlying aesthetic quality. Posed at
center is the woman who will play Diana of Versailles, goddess of the moon. However,
this woman is clearly not an accurate embodiment of the chaste huntress: she is a sexually
enticing figure, breasts exposed, her dress having risen to reveal her supple thigh. Behind
her, Apollo, identified by the sun upon the actresses’ head, misuses Diana’s arrowless bow
to attempt to reach a pair of stockings. Despite this lighthearted mockery of the goddess’
trademark weapon, Diana is illuminated by the small patch of sunlight that enters the
barn through a hole in the dilapidated roof. Like the moon, she is full and glowing. Her
curves are endowed with the grace of the snaking serpentine line, Hogarth’s definition of
beauty.To the right of Diana kneels the actress who will play the siren, a mythological
creature known for using her beauty and song to lure men to an untimely demise. Far
from idealized, the siren receives a nip of gin for a toothache, her eyelids heavy with
drunkenness and pain. In a similar nod to naturalism, Aurora, the goddess of dawn, stands
behind her, squeezing a pimple on her shoulder. Yet the makeshift tail tied about the
waist of the siren is another perfectly serpentine form.This conflation of real, lower-class
working girls and classical ideals of femininity exemplifies Hogarth’s employment of his
trademark serpentine line to create something beautiful in a subject which, to him, was
2.2 William Hogarth, Strolling Actresses Dressing In a Barn, 1738, engraving, GCAC 2013.16.
2.3 William Hogarth, Morning, plate 1 of The Four Times of Day, 1738, etching and engraving, GCAC
Hogarth’s series The Four Times of the Day chronicles the daily routines of contemporary
Londoners.The prints were reversed replicas of larger paintings commissioned to decorate
the supper boxes at Vauxhall gardens. Vauxhall, a popular leisure space for London’s
wealthy and aristocratic, frequently featured scenes of the four seasons. Hogarth echoed
this temporal and pastoral motif, each print cycling backwards from winter to spring
(Paulson 1971). Depictions of the four stages of the day, known as the “points du jour,”
were pictorial conventions derived from the Flemish engraving tradition (Shesgreen
1983). By creating an urban and English reversal of the “points du jour,” Hogarth calls
attention to the diverse, chaotic, and lewd metropolis.
In “Morning,” the first plate of the series, an ‘old maid’ walks across Covent Garden
to St. Paul’s Cathedral. “Points du jour” engravings typically depicted the young and
beautiful Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora. By substituting an old coquette for Aurora,
Hogarth signals that his “points du jour” will have singularly parodic and contemporary
grit. His fussily overdressed matron pointedly ignores the shivering errand boy who
carries her prayer book.The profusion of dark patches littering her face suggests that she
is either covered in syphilis scars or vainly overusing cosmetic beauty spots (Rosenthal
2001). Her showy dress belies her pilgrimage to morning church service.
Contemporary viewers would have noticed a topographical as well as ideological
manipulation of the “points du jour” for Hogarth has moved the famous coffee house,
Tom King’s, across the square in order to obscure St. Paul’s Cathedral. Doing so creates a
moralistic architectural hierarchy, a strategy Piranesi would later use in “Ancient Baths.”
At the bottom of this stratified arrangement is the coffee house, known throughout the
Enlightenment as a space for intelligent public discourse (Outram 2006). Hogarth’s
depiction of Tom King’s, however, challenges this characterization: A brawl has broken
out inside the building, and a pyramid of prostitutes and beggars, who have presumably
just left, collects before a fire outside the building. Above Hogarth’s gibe at immoral
Enlightenment looms St. Paul’s.The Cathedral’s clock, placed at the top, reads: “Sic
transit gloria mundi,” (Thus passes the glory of the world) (detail 2.3).
Just as Hogarth substitutes a woman past her prime for Aurora, his choice in setting
is similarly moralistic. Rather than in traditional fields, “Morning” takes place in an urban
fruit and vegetable market (Shesgreen 1983). Behind the woman, vendors erect their
stalls in front of snow-covered buildings. Hogarth’s produce is two steps removed from
its original pastoral setting. Located in the heart of the city in wintertime, the harvest
is unnatural and out of season. Amid the crowd, the well-known contemporary quack,
Dr. Rock, hocks his treatment for syphilis. Linking unnatural fruit with venereal disease,
Hogarth bawdily hints that London life produces rotten fruits. Whereas Callot’s fruits of
war are death and violence, Hogarth’s fruits of modernity are sex and disease.
In “Noon,” the only print in the series to occur at a mealtime, Hogarth shows lunch gone
wrong. Rather than satisfying natural appetites, Hogarth’s scene depicts both physical
and spiritual malnourishment. At left, a servant woman lustily spills her dish of food, her
attention consumed by having her breasts fondled. In an essay entitled “Britophil,” written
to accompany the series’ 1737 advertisement, Hogarth described the woman as a symbol
of superior nationalistic beauty. He asserted, “That Grand Venus …has not Beauty enough
for the Character of an English Cook-Maid” (Hogarth 1737). By making the woman
more beautiful than classical figures, Hogarth invited contemporary London viewers to
proudly claim the woman as their own.
Having set up the association, however, Hogarth denies his viewers access to an
English beauty. Instead of a white man, presumably evoking the Vauxhall audience, the
Englishwoman is enjoyed by an androgynous figure, identified by Ronald Paulson as
a black man (Paulson 1991). By showing the personification of England enjoying the
embrace of a man whose race would likely have symbolized slavery and colonization,
Hogarth underscored the perverse constraints of the metropole (Dabydeen 1987). Rather
than fighting off the man’s advances, the woman returns his gaze, implicitly snubbing
those of the print’s contemporary white male viewers. Never one to refuse an opportunity
for lewd humor, Hogarth hangs a sign above the couple depicting a man’s head on a
platter that reads, “Good Eating.”
The dead cat in the middle of the street is another sly sexual joke (detail 2.4). In a
different context, Robert Darnton explains that in 18th
century France, the killing and
torture of cats was an insinuation of female infidelity. “The symbolism [was] ambivalent
enough to dupe,” he explains, “and stark enough to hit” (Darnton 1984). Implying that
someone else has violated a man’s cat, the dead feline carried sexual implications of which
Hogarth was evidently aware.
While the English viewers’ bodily appetites are denied at left, the print shows
spiritual starvation at right. Opposite the couple is a family of Huguenots.The
Huguenots, members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France, fled to England
to seek refuge from religious persecution in Catholic France (Gwynn 2001). Hogarth’s
Huguenots, however, are hardly devout pilgrims. Despite having recently left a Christian
service, the man and woman are mainly concerned with their decadent appearance.Their
son scorns the simple cobblestone with his expensive walking stick.The family’s elaborate
dress directly challenges the simplicity advocated by John Calvin and the Reformation
Church, and ignores Calvin’s warning that, “too much prosperity so dazzles our eyes, that
we cannot perceive wherefore God chastises us” (Calvin 1550).
2.4 William Hogarth, Noon, plate 2 of The Four Times of Day, 1738, etching and engraving, GCAC 2014.34.
2.5 William Hogarth, Evening, plate 3 of The Four Times of Day, 1738, etching and engraving, GCAC
In the series’ third plate, “Evening,” the sun sets on the once-fashionable town of Islington
just outside of London. In Hogarth’s time, the local theater, Sadler’s Wells, was associated
with lowbrow clientele and tradesmen. A few decades earlier, the satirist, Ned Ward,
described the town’s visitors as, “Butchers and bailiffs, and such sort of fellows/ mixed
with a vermin train’d up for the gallows” (Ward 1699). By choosing a social group that
Vauxhall viewers might have scorned, Hogarth primed his audience to look askance at the
The plate shows a weary family returning to London from Islington.The man’s hands
are stained to indicate that he is a dyer, an effect achieved through the use of blue ink
(detail 2.5). Hogarth also used red ink for the flushed face of the dyer’s wife to convey
the sweltering heat of the summer day (Paulson 1991).The family’s departure can be read
as a religious allusion. No longer able to enjoy nature, the couple evokes Adam and Eve
abandoning this English Eden for a man-made metropolis. Hogarth therefore creates a
modern Exodus: Behind the dyer’s head, the horns of a cow appear to belong to the man,
echoing the prominent horns of Michelangelo’s statue of Moses (Mellinkoff 1970).
Hogarth extends the use of religious symbolism from the Hebrew Bible, or Old
Testament, to the New Testament.The dyer’s wife is visibly pregnant, and the crowded
tavern directly behind her suggests the inn of the Biblical Nativity, casting her as a
contemporary Madonna. But the woman is hardly the sinless Virgin Mary. She ignores
the bickering son and daughter who trail behind. Her unfurled fan, décolletage, and loose
neckerchief suggest that her children have been conceived in adultery rather than sanctity
The broken pipe resting on the riverbed mocks the damaged conduit of the woman’s
virtue.The pipe, however, not only references female sexuality. Hogarth’s broken pipe
signifies the failed attempts of Sir Hugh Myddleton to channel water into London
(Paulson 1991).The artist underscores his critique by decorating the tavern sign with
Myddleton’s portrait. Inside the tavern a crowd exchanges the country air for city smoke,
replicating the urban environment in what should be a pastoral escape. By illustrating
the tavern-goers’ warped priorities alongside Myddleton’s defeated engineering, Hogarth
portrays contemporary Londoners as arrogant, modern Babylonians.
In Hogarth’s final print in The Four Times of the Day, a bonfire forms a flaming blockade
in the center of Charing Cross Road. In Hogarth’s day, the narrow street was notorious
for its many accidents (Hallett 2000). In the print, the flames yield yet another upheaval:
an overturned Salisbury Flying Coach. Here, as the travelers cry for help, a stray firework
rockets toward the open window, about to set the coach and everyone inside, ablaze.
The fiery spectacle is unobserved, however, by an inebriated freemason, identified
by his apron. A friend lights the way with a lantern, steering him home. Ironically, the
drunken mason is Sir Thomas de Veil, a contemporary politician known for his vocal
support of the Gin Act, which prohibited the sale of spirits. A mason himself, Hogarth
belonged to the same lodge as De Veil (Paulson 1971).The artist’s dissatisfaction with
De Veil was made explicit in his advertisement for the print series, which imagined a
prankster tricking De Veil into drinking urine. “One of them piss’d …in the Bottle …
which he carr’d to a noted Justice in Westminster, and told him he was come to inform
against a Person who had just sold him a Quartern of Gin, … whereupon the Justic
order’d a Glass to be brought” (Hogarth 1737). Hogarth’s advertisement was published
on the same day Roger Allen stood trial for killing two gin informants and mobbing De
Veil’s home. In Hogarth’s image, a woman empties a chamber pot from a second story
window onto De Veil’s head, visually echoing the bodily fluids of the advertisement.
De Veil’s hat, seconds from being doused in urine, is decorated with sprigs of oak
(detail 2.6). Oak boughs similarly adorn several signs, revealing the reason for the
scene’s revelry.The decorations honor Royal Oak Day, May 29, a holiday celebrating
the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II following the English Civil War
(Miller 2007). Emphasizing the historical allusion, an equestrian statue of Charles II’s
predecessor and father, Charles I, observes the holiday’s wild carousing from the far end
of Charing Cross Road (Paulson 1971).
Not surprisingly, the scene’s senseless pandemonium persists despite the symbols
of royal order and control.The disastrous destruction resulting from the holiday revelry
might even refer to the Anglo-Dutch Wars that accompanied Charles II’s reign. Just
as Goya challenges the effectiveness of absolutism in his depictions of war, Hogarth’s
monarchy is shown as ineffective and helpless in the face of modern London.
2.6 William Hogarth, Night, plate 4 of The Four Times of Day, 1738, etching and engraving, GCAC 2014.36.
2.7 William Hogarth (English, 1697-1764), O the Roast Beef of Old England (“The Gate of Calais”),
1749, engraving, GCAC 2013.15.
O the Roast Beef of Old England
In July 1748, Hogarth travelled to Paris. On his way back through Calais, a territorial
possession of England until its capture by the French in 1558, he decided to sketch the
city gate, which still bore the English coat of arms. His sketching aroused suspicion and
he was soon arrested as a spy (Wallace 2004). Engraved a year after his Parisian trip, The
Gate of Calais was intended to “display to my own Countrymen the striking difference
between the food, priests, soldiers, etc. of two nations so contiguous, that in a clear day
one coast may be seen from the other” (Ireland & Nichols 1874).
Hogarth, who had no love for the French, asserts his staunch English nationalism in
this print (Erwin 2001). He satirizes and exaggerates the figures of the French, rendering
them with abnormally pointed chins, long hooked noses, bulging eyes, and hollowed
cheeks.These caricatures glaringly contrast with the artist’s own natural-looking figure
at left.The disembodied hand of a French soldier on Hogarth’s shoulder hints at his
Two scrawny French soldiers, one of whom is oblivious to his spilled soup, ignore
the watery and meatless French soup maigre in the pot carried by two other French men
at right. In contrast to the tasteless French soup, the appetizing and massive English
roast beef signifies the superior quality of English food (Wagner 2005).The French can
only gawk enviously, subjected as they are to the insubstantial fare that undoubtedly
accounts for their emaciation. Similarly, in the right foreground, sits a pathetic Scottish
Highlander.This soldier has likely fled to France after the failed Jacobite uprising
that aimed to restore a Catholic monarch, James II, to England’s throne in 1745.The
miserable Scot begs for more than the scanty crust of French bread and raw onion that do
nothing to combat his hunger (Ireland & Nichols 1874).
The single well-fed foreigner in the print is the gluttonous Catholic friar whose fat
fingers greedily fondle the side of beef being carried by a cook to an English inn. Instead
of honoring his vow of poverty, this apparently Franciscan friar (a member of the same
Catholic Order appearing throughout Callot’s Misères series), exemplifies the deadly sin
of gluttony while his countrymen starve. By mocking the religious, Hogarth, a patriotic
citizen of Protestant England, suggests that the Catholic Church is corrupt. His anti-
Catholicism continues in the representation of the three fishwives at right, who, with
crosses at their necks, resemble nuns.The women, perhaps perceiving the face of Christ
in the fish, foolishly worship a ray (Erwin 2001). Moreover, the jaw-like gate of Calais,
which mimics the gates of hell, undermines the virtue of the priest within who carries the
consecrated Eucharistic bread to a sick person (detail 2.7) (Erwin 2001).
Given that England was at war with France for much of the mid to late 18th century,
Hogarth’s antagonistic patriotism was likely welcome to many in England.This print
illuminates his extreme nationalistic pride, a zealous fervor that exemplifies xenophobia.
The Reward of Cruelty
William Hogarth is well known for his painstakingly detailed and narrative moralistic
prints. The Four Stages of Cruelty, one of his later series, follows the escalating brutality of
a character named Tom Nero.Tom’s surname renders him a modern incarnation of the
much-despised Roman emperor Nero (r. 54-68). Nero, whose tomb Piranesi would later
render, legendarily amused himself with rooftop music as Rome burned in a fire that
some argue he lit himself. Hogarth’s series culminates with this fourth and final plate,
“The Reward of Cruelty.”The print illustrates the English Nero’s unseemly post-mortem
fate as the cadaver used in a medical lecture. Published in 1751, Nero’s end would have
been timely for contemporary viewers: the dissection of executed murder convicts, illegal
upon the series publication, was soon to be legalized by the Murder Act of 1752 (Paulson
Crucially, Nero’s gruesome disembowelment takes place in a medical school. In
Hogarth’s lecture hall, however, an empirical and rational discipline becomes repulsive
and superstitious. At left, we find human skulls and crossbones boiling over a blazing fire.
Though a trusted means of sterilization, the contents resemble a witch’s cauldron or pirate
flag. In the center of this scene the President of the medical college sits on a throne-
like chair, similar to that of the young king in Callot’s “Distribution of Awards.” Just as
Callot’s monarch absently extends his scepter, the medical school president, attired in
billowing academic robes, lazily directs the stagey dissection.
Before him,Tom Nero lies on a round table in the center of a medical theater,
recalling the torture device in Callot’s “The Wheel.” Four figures dismantle Nero’s body
for the benefit of the class: gouging the eye while suspending the head with a pulley
system, slicing the abdomen, cutting the heel, and collecting the intestines in a pail at
bottom right. At the center of the foreground, a dog eats Nero’s heart, echoing his canine
predecessor in the series’ opening plate (detail 2.8). While these actions initially appear
to be a literal performance of an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” version of justice, Nero
has already died and cannot feel the pain. Despite the fact that some of the same acts for
which Nero was punished are carried out in the name of science and pedagogy, few of the
students seem to care, thus undermining the purpose of the dissection. In this way, not
only the educational and scientific, but also the moral lessons of Nero’s heinous deeds and
fate are lost.
2.8 William Hogarth, The Reward of Cruelty, plate 4 from The Four Stages of Cruelty, 1751, etching and
engraving on paper, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Peter O. Stamats, University of Iowa Museum of Art, 1980.175.
[Behold the Villain’s dire disgrace!
Not Death itself can end.
He finds no peaceful Burial-Place,
His breathless Corse, no friend.
Torn from the Root, that wicked Tongue,
Which daily swore and curst!
Those Eyeballs from their Sockets wrung,
That glow’d with lawless Lust!
His Heart expos’d to prying Eyes,
To Pity has no claim;
But, dreadful! from his Bones shall rise,
His Monument of Shame.]
The Monumental Tablet
In The Monumental Tablet (1761) Piranesi uses a new stylistic vocabulary to depict the
passage of time and the inevitability of decay. He employs dry point and scratching to
create light, open hatch marks throughout the composition.These soft lines fill the space,
creating a hazy atmosphere that furthers the spatial ambiguity of the print.This style is
a departure from the precise and ordered lines in the classical subjects of the Opere Varie
or the dark and heavy marks that form the Carceri. It was likely inspired by Piranesi’s
return to Venice from 1745-1747 (Robison 1986). During this visit to his native city,
he presumably saw the work of Venetian painter Giovanni Tiepolo who worked in a
similarly painterly style (Wilton-Ely 1993).This mode lends itself to the imagined
subjects of the Grotteschi, which means grotesque or even fantastic.
The composition represents the decay of various examples of ancient Greek culture,
which fall victim to time itself. Before the viewer a frame rests against a weathered
stone wall adorned with classical symbols and motifs such as coins, the horn of plenty,
decorative feathers, chains, and vegetation. A faint, disembodied hand floats above the left
corner of the frame performing a libation.This symbolic act of pouring a liquid, such as
wine or olive oil, into another bowl and letting it spill into the earth in honor of a God or
deceased loved one was a central practice of the ancient Greeks (Burkert 1985).The right
corner of the frame is particularly heavy with classical decoration including the head of
Medusa on a round plaque or shield. Just above this spread the massive wings of Pegasus
(detail 1), Medusa’s equine child of sorts, as he was born of her blood after she was
beheaded by Perseus (Harrison 1924).Though the winged horse is too large to fit within
the bounds of the print, his hooves direct the eye to the bottom right corner, where the
scene’s most disrupting feature is revealed.
As the eye follows Pegasus’ hooves through the smoky lines along the right, the
image begins to roll inwards (detail 2) to splits in the bottom center (detail 3) as if a set
of heavy curtains were being drawn. Not only does this curtain call into question the
kind of space that this scene occupies, it also quite literally introduces “the influence of
stage design in liberating him [Piranesi] from practical considerations of proposals for
construction” (Robinson 1986).The disruption of space and time removes the scene even
further from the realm of reality and into an imagined and theatrical fantasyland, filled
with death and ruin. Along the print’s bottom edge, ripples of fabric folds run beneath the
piles of abandoned and ruined materials strewn across the foreground. Amid this mess
rest three skulls and a partially buried hourglass.The skulls act as a gruesome reminder
(memento mori) of the inevitability of death, in this case the end of a Greek culture
whose time has run out—as the curtain is being drawn.
3.1 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Monumental Tablet, pl. IV state II from Grotteschi, 1761, etching, engraving,
dry point, scratching, GCAC 1962.10.PI.31.
3.2 Giovanni Battista Piranesi Idea delle antiche vie Appia e Ardeatina (Fantasy of the Ancient Via Appia and
Via Ardeatina), frontispiece from Antichità Romane, 1756, etching, GCAC 1962.10.PI.23
Idea delle antiche vie Appia e Ardeatina
The site of this print is a miscellany of ancient architectural elements, ranging from
Roman temples and busts to Egyptian obelisks Yet, even with its excess of subjects
the print retains order by both technical and compositional means.To mitigate the
stifling effect of over-crowding, for example, Piranesi organizes the immense heaps
of architecture between two vanishing points forming the Via Appia, left, and Via
Piranesi employs the technique called stamping out to add an atmospheric haziness
that enhances the recession of space as the avenues fade into the distance. In etchings of
this sort, the depth to which the acid bites the surface determines the amount of ink an
etched impression can hold which, in turn, regulates the tone (the deeper, the darker) of
the mark.To manipulate this tonal effect, the artist stamps out (i.e. uses asphalt or varnish
to protect exposed copper from acid) in order to control the intensity of the mark.This
allows for expanses of distinct tonal areas, often designating background and foreground.
Here, the gray distant structures contrast with the rich darkness of those closest,
effectively generating an atmospheric spatial depth. In this way, composition allows
Piranesi to critique Enlightenment thought in terms of its treatment, or foregrounding, of
the ancient past.
In this image, the Via Appia (Appian Way), a historic Roman road engineered in
century, recedes along a diagonal, allowing visual access to the many facades, busts,
even written inscriptions. By contrast, the verticality of Via Ardeatina, another ancient
thoroughfare, compresses the porticos, facades, and pillars so they overlap and interrupt
the beholder’s view of individual features. Like the well-ordered encyclopedia for with
century would be known, the Via Appia confers architectural and historical
information through close, empirical, observation.The darker avenue, a mere alleyway,
hints at such information but does not disclose it. In fact, the juxtaposition of these
avenues critiques the power of Enlightenment history to understand antiquity in the
present. In this context, the Via Appia represents a glorious past while the Via Ardeatina
represents an irreconcilable removal from this past, a symptom of the modern. Perhaps
the accessible view of the Egyptian and Roman relics of the Via Appia aligns with
Giambattista Vico’s humanistic historicism. In this sense, Piranesi may suggest that an
accurate reconstruction of the past can be rendered only through the analysis of multiple
human civilizations, historical cycles, and cultural origins.
The Tomb of Nero
Ancient Roman architecture inspired Piranesi’s topographical drafting, archeology, and
fantastical scenes. In the literally decadent imagery of Nero’s Tomb, the imaginative collides
with the archeological to produce an awe-inspiring print.This print, as the interface
of the historical and the imaginary, correlates to the Enlightenment’s re-appraisal of
what comprised truth. In pursuit of new approaches to history, Enlightenment thinkers
searched the past to explain the formation and condition of contemporary Europe.
Many turned to Greek and Roman antiquity often privileging one over the other.The
“Greco-Roman debate” demonstrates the Enlightenment concern with historicism, which
analyzed the source (or sources) or Western European culture. Philhellenists, chiefly of
French and British nationality, argued that the genesis of culture began with Ancient
Greece. Many Italian thinkers, not surprisingly, viewed Hellenocentrism (privileging the
Greek) as gross simplification and contended that Latin culture was largely independent
of Greek influence. Foremost among these Italian champions of Rome, Giambattista
Vico (1668-1744) probed the origin of Latin culture through language in order to show
that Latin consisted of more Etruscan (Italian) terminology than Greek (Costelloe 2014).
In the tiny caption at bottom right of this print, Piranesi references the French
Academy in Rome, perhaps aligning the modern French with the ancient Greek. His
incorporation of grandiose flourishes and intricate organic forms certainly exemplifies
the rococo style popular in France at the time. Moreover, to intensify what appears as
his polemical assault on the grotesqueness of French art, Piranesi directly appropriates
imagery from French printmakers in the decorative bas-relief visible at the foot of the
sarcophagus. Indeed, a nearly identical figure appears in Ewer with Hercules Slaying Cacus
by Jean LePautre, a 17th
century French printmaker (Sørenson 2005). Perhaps Piranesi
places this borrowed figure in an overgrown and crumbling tomb in order to take sides in
the emerging Greco-Roman controversy, a divisive nationalistic and aesthetic debate.
Piranesi reproduced not only a French image in his Grotteschi, but a French image
of a Greco-Roman myth: Heracles’ (Hercules) defeat of Cacus, a fire-breathing ogre
who lived at the future site of Rome on Palantine Hill. More relevant to this exhibition,
the figures appear on the tomb of Nero, whom Pliny the Elder described as “an enemy
of mankind” (detail of 3.3). Beyond the decrepit tomb, massive structures loom over the
corrosion and fragments in the foreground.The sequence of arches supporting a causeway
resembles the Roman aqueducts that Piranesi studied extensively.To Piranesi, and to
many other historians both past and present, the functionality of Roman architecture far
surpassed that of the decorative Greek.To this end, Piranesi asks “Must the Genius of our
artists be so basely enslaved to the Grecian manners, as not to dare to look to take what is
beautiful elsewhere, if it be not of Grecian origin?” (Naginski 2008).
3.3 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Tomb of Nero, from Grotteschi, ca. 1748, etching, GCAC 1962.10.PI.30
3.4 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Ancient Baths with Stairs That Lead to the Gymnasium and the Theatre, from
Opere Varie, 1761, etching, GCAC 1962.10.PI.21.
The Ancient Baths with Stairs That
Lead to the Gymnasium and the Theatre
The Ancient Baths with stairs leading to the gymnasium and theatre (1761) forms a kind of
mirror opposite of the depressing scene of the Lion Bas Reliefs by privileging order and
hierarchy in the open space of the bathhouse. Created around the same time, “the Carceri
are intimately related to his [Piranesi’s] current interests in the architectural fantasies as
a means of formal analysis” (Wilton-Ely 1993).The two massive arched structures in the
center declare Piranesi’s position in the Greco-Roman controversy—when the relative
superiority of ancient Greek and Roman cultures was debated, especially in terms of their
impact on the neoclassical interests of the Enlightenment.
At the base of the arches, Greek Doric columns support an amalgamation of
architectural features such as the pointed temple roof, or pediment, and the triglyphs and
metopes on the pediment’s frieze, above the columns themselves (Lawrence 1996).The
foundation is thus classically Greek, even reminiscent of the Parthenon. Yet despite their
resemblance to the Athenian icon, the columns hardly seem strong enough to support
the massive structures they support, especially the Roman elements.The metopes above
the columns are bare, suggesting the once-painted or sculpted images may have worn off
altogether, further revealing their inability to endure (Lawrence 1996).
Intriguingly, as the eye moves upwards, the features become decidedly Roman.The
series of arches, much like the arches of the Carceri, feature Etruscan-style masonry, an
element which is important considering Piranesi’s (and Giambattista Vico’s) insistence
on “the importance of the Etruscans as the Roman’s intellectual and artistic mentors”
(Robison 1986). As the ‘base’ of Roman culture, this plain, solid masonry supports the
uppermost level of Roman arches and smooth marble.The arches extend upwards outside
the margins of the print itself.They tower over the tiny figures below, who mill about,
diminished by the buildings.
Several small stone lions, much like those in the Lion Bas-Reliefs, sit gracefully on the
edges and center of the print.This balanced placement structures the scene.The distinctly
Roman lions face inward and protect the buildings, keeping at bay the chaos that could
not be stopped in the Lion Bas-Reliefs. Although equally filled with imagined architecture,
the precise and neatly ordered linear style of the print creates a sense of reality that is
nowhere to be found in the prison scenes.The Roman elements at the top of the physical
hierarchy stand tall and proud, dwarfing the Greek elements which seem meager in
comparison.This tightly controlled scene leaves no room for the disorder of the Carceri. It
embodies a world of categorization and control through a moralizing system of classical
architectural materials and features.
The Arch of Constantine in Rome
From Piranesi’s series, the Alcune Vedute di Archi Trionfali ed altri Monumenti (Some
scenic views of triumphal and other monuments), the Arch of Constantine in Rome (1748)
upholds the strength of Rome and its superior architecture. As an Italian, Piranesi did not
question the excellence of ancient Rome and the architectural feats of his nation’s past.
315 AD, the Arch of Constantine’s impressive triple arch structure was built with
spolia, or pilfered scraps from earlier monuments.This was common practice at the time
and further suggests the ‘triumph’ of Roman culture over the Greek monuments that were
deconstructed purely for parts (Elsner 2000). Beyond its Roman-ness, the triple arch was
constructed to honor Emperor Constantine’s victory in the Battle of the Milvan Bridge in
312 AD. It was during this battle that soldiers branded their shields with a Chi-Ro, the
first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek, thus marking the beginning of Constantine’s
embrace of Christianity.This conversion to Christianity eventually led to the Edict
of Milan in 313 AD, which emphasized tolerance of all religions but also legalized
Christianity, making it safe to practice openly. Along with secularism, the religious
tolerance foreshadowed in these events is often considered a tenet of the Enlightenment
Viewed from the side, through another archway, the monument stands tall despite
its age, with very few signs of wear.The arch positioning the viewer provides a stark
contrast, as it is both covered in vegetation and beginning to weather.Topped with a few
stray plants, the Arch of Constantine towers over the shack beside it. Clearly, time has
passed since its construction, enough time that other buildings have since been built.
Yet despite this, the ancient monument not only stands but is also obviously more grand
in comparison to its modern surroundings. Piranesi praises the superiority of ancient
Roman architecture but is continually disappointed that this same quality is apparently
unattainable in his own time since “the real problem is that no contemporary patron,
either official or private, is willing to bear the cost of constructing buildings equal in
splendor to those of the antique” (Robinson 1986). Instead, the contemporary building
looks unsteady. One can assume that it will crumble long before the ancient monument
Because Constantine’s arch is depicted from an angle that does not necessarily show
off the facade or intricate details of the structure itself, the aim is not to highlight style
but endurance.The beautiful architectural details that adorn the structure fall by the
wayside; the superiority of the construction is the focus of this print.
3.5 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Arch of Constantine in Rome, pl. IX from Alcune Vedute di Archi Trionfali ed
altri Monumenti, 1748, etching, GCAC 1962.10.PI.63
3.6 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Lion Bas-Reliefs, pl. V state I from Carceri d’Invenzione, c. 1761, etching,
engraving, GCAC 1962.10.PI.36.
The Lion Bas-Reliefs
The Lion Bas-Reliefs (1761) was not originally part of the Carceri series. It was added
during the second state of the print series as Piranesi attempted to alter the overall feeling
of his darkly imaginative prisons. As Andrew Robison observes, “one of Piranesi’s primary
goals was to expand the spaces of their compositions” not to create empty space but to fill
with even more architectural features (Robison 1986).This sheet epitomizes this desire
through a seemingly endless frenzy of Roman arches, bridges, chains, and wooden beams
that seem to recede infinitely.This endless prison echoes Piranesi’s negative feelings
towards an Enlightenment culture that relied on theorizing, scientific observation, and
categorization, an approach he resists entirely in these prisons. Here Piranesi pursues a
newly chaotic style of imaginative exploration because he “had no doubts that artistic
license was necessary for a healthy state of design and essential for the development of
new ideas” (Robison 1986).The unpredictability of experimentation takes over in this
world. Neither the brutal justice of ancient Rome nor the outside world is enough to
counter the disorder.
The large relief sculpture at left depicts two stone men detaining a third. All three
sculptures look eerily lifelike (detail 1).The third man, although currently bound, is being
shoved towards the edge of the sculpture, under which rest two stone lions.The lion pit is
the presumed fate of this imprisoned man, punishment for whatever heinous act caused
him to be arrested and thrown in this prison to begin with.The justice system of Rome,
as represented by the pit of lions, was considered “the symbol and assurance of stable
peace and order… having as its ultimate aim the stabilization as well as the preservation
of the social status quo.”Yet despite these intentions, it cannot reign in the disorder of the
imagined prison. Justice is not realized here (Chroust 1946).
A suggestion of what could be is echoed through a glimmer of the outside world
seen at far right (detail 2). But this potential relief goes unnoticed by the men inside the
prison. Ultimately, it provides little escape even for the viewer of this overwhelming and
The Round Tower
A master draftsman, Piranesi’s oeuvre mainly consists of archeological studies, carefully
composed Vedute (scenic views) and architectural schemes. Yet his polemical writings and
etchings focus on criticizing Philhellenic circles (see catalogue entry 3.3) and defending
his advocacy on the free experimentation in architecture in order to create novel styles
(Wilton-Ely 1978). But besides exemplifying Piranesi’s desire for artistic freedom and
architectural experimentation, the Carceri prints do not neatly fit into of the categories
A comparison of the first and second states of the series reveals drastic alterations
such as enhanced tonal contrast.There is also the addition of many hanging ropes, heavy
chains, and torture devices. Interestingly, these added features often contain a startling
element: a cross. At the far right side of the second state of plate III, for example, Piranesi
makes a cross out of dark, black, scratchy lines near an ominously spiked instrument.
(Detail of 3.7) In a nearly unrecognizable reworking of plate XVI, a menacing
construction of cruciform wooden beams noticeably occupies the lower right corner.
In both cases, Piranesi situates these cross-like additions into objects known for their
capacity to inflict pain. Furthermore, in plate III the cross is among the darkest area in the
entire dungeon while the crosses in plate XVI are among the brightest aspects. Piranesi
made these additions are sufficiently prominent to draw the viewer’s attention.
If Piranesi’s art attempts to value “fragments of the past as means by which
architecture might be reinvented as opposed to mourned” (Naginski 2008), modern
architects should use the ruins of ancient Rome for this purpose. Here, the cross might
signify the Church’s role in propagating Baroque architecture by Borromini or Bernini. In
Piranesi’s view the wealth and power of the Papacy could realize buildings with grandeur
equivalent to ancient Rome. Baroque basilicas confirmed the Church’s ability to carry out
such projects but in architectural styles that detracted from the building itself. During the
century, Baroque architecture came under fire by influential architectural theorists,
especially Carlo Lodoli, a Venetian polymath and correspondent of Piranesi’s (Consoli
2006). Against Baroque architecture, which was viewed by some contemporaries as
overly ornamental and unnecessarily grandiose, Lodoli invented a scientific approach to
architecture based on structural necessity rather than ‘superfluous’ decoration (Ungureanu
2011). Put another way, Lodoli developed a ‘truthful’ architecture where the materials,
wood and stone, carried out their specific functions instead of cloaking the materials in
Similarly, Piranesi’s arches spring from needed supporting columns, recalling vaulting
in Gothic cathedrals and possibly the barrel vaults common in Italian Renaissance
architecture. Below them, a cruciform beam seems to rest upon the splintered wooden
cross. Again, this careful juxtaposition points toward the Church’s privileging of highly
decorative Baroque architecture over the more restrained style and “functionality” of
3.7 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Round Tower, pl. III from Carceri d’invenzione, State V, 1761, etching,
3.8 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Giant Opening, pl. IX from Carceri d’invenzione, State V, 1761, etching,
The Giant Opening
Writers, philosophers, and art historians have mused over the fantastical shadowy
spaces Piranesi constructed of amorphous and ragged lines. Many of the Carceri prints
feature this frenzied method of mark making, culminating in plate IX, The Giant
Opening. Especially at the print’s right margin, Piranesi’s lines take on a life of their own,
describing their manic rendering instead of forming a definite image (detail of 3.8).The
print illustrates an enormous structure. Yet, because of the prominence of disorderly lines,
abstraction becomes an aspect, if not the subject, of this wild print. Just as the structure
struggles for definition and stability, the viewer must search for something tangible. Both
the crypt and portal are entities recognizable to the viewer. But their depiction here
transcends the possibility of seeing in reality.The scene, though recognizable, is impossible
to experience in life. It importantly evokes Edmund Burke’s newly developed aesthetic
theory of the sublime.
Burke, an Irish politician and philosopher active during Piranesi’s lifetime,
postulated two related but contrasting aesthetic concepts, the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘sublime.’
Beauty derives from the recognition of a depicted object in association with previous
observations.The image, or images, of lived experience, conjured by the imagination are
compared and evaluated for likeness to the depicted object by the faculty of judgment.
For Burke, this identification with representation is the basis of beauty and its attendant
pleasure.The other, more powerful, aesthetic category, the sublime, also derives from
recognition by the imagination. However, “in the sublime our sensuous ideas lead us to an
idea or experience that inevitably never arrives.”This experience short-circuits judgment
out of the tripartite machination involved in the production of beauty (Huhn 2004).
Thus, in the experience of the sublime, the imagination reigns supreme and the interplay
between imagination and reason goes unchecked.
The Burkean sublime manifests itself most noticeably in the second state of Piranesi’s
Carceri prints, which exhibit additional torture devices and ominously darkened spaces.
Darkness forces the viewer to fill in the visual void and to judge the unobservable thing
inevitably cloaked in black. Similarly, the roughly composed torture apparatuses evoke
pain and suffering to a degree most viewers can only imagine. For Burke, these objects, in
addition to the space, would “excite the ideas of pain and danger… a source of the sublime;
that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.”
de Goya y
4.1 Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1848), They Carried Her Off! (Que Se La Llevaron!)
pl. 8 from Los Caprichos, 1799, etching and aquatint on paper, Gift of Owen and Leone Elliott, University
of Iowa Museum of Art, 1976.44H.
They Carried her Off!
Goya published Los Caprichos in 1777 to demonstrate the upheaval of contemporary
Spain.There, the Enlightenment was seen by some as a promotion of science and reason
and a belief in an essentially moral and rational humanity (Tomlinson 1992).Such radical
ideas resulted in a subversion of old institutions, such as the Catholic Church and the
sometimes ignorant and passive aristocracy.The tensions between new Enlightenment
ideas and old institutions manifested themselves in several ways, including violent, physi-
cal confrontations (Tomlinson 1992). They Carried Her Off represents the overthrowing of
the idle nobility and the freedom and chaos of a world without order and morality.
Throughout Los Caprichos, noblewomen are depicted as frivolous and susceptible to
deceit and corruption. At first, these noble women offer their hand to the first comer.
They are shown as unreadable, their ignorance impenetrable to the extent that they do not
even know themselves (one aime of the Age of Reason). They Carried Her Off shows the
opposition between the Enlightenment and a Spanish nobility who had become com-
placent and was generally unresponsive to Enlightenment calls for change. They Carried
Her Off shows a departure from the earlier prints of the series, replacing the earlier sense
of gallantry with violence and even rape, where a pure and innocent elite woman is being
carried away by two shrouded figures with sinister intent (Tomlinson 1989).
The faces of the villains holding the noblewomen are obscured.This, as Janis Tom-
linson states, recalls the 18th
century idea of the masquerade, a metaphor for a world
governed without restraint or order, where masks hide intentions, both good and bad
(Tomlinson 1989). Wearing a mask allowed wearers a freeing anonymity that allowed
them to do whatever they desired, regardless of the constraints of society or reason. Given
the fantastical nature of the rest of the Caprichos, it is not even clear that these figures
are human and not grotesque mythical beasts, such as goblins or warlocks. Perhaps Goya
covers the faces of the savage kidnappers to show that they act from passion instead of
reason and are not limited by morality.This print reflects Goya’s uncertainty about the
constraints of the old regime and the free morals of the Enlightenment.
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
In the most famous image of Los Caprichos, a sleeping man in contemporary dress sits
cradling his head at a desk inscribed with the phrase “El sueño de la razon produce
monstruos.”The dreamer is Goya himself in the throes of Enlightenment-induced
nightmares.This is reflected by the surrounding creatures and darkened hallucinations
descending from the shadows. Goya directs the viewer’s eye from the bottom left to the
top right of the print.The inscribed words represent the way “razon”, or reason, imposed
on the creative artist’s mind, produces visions of “monstruos,” or monsters, which are
embedded in dreams. An owl, perching on the tabletop to Goya’s left, attempts to rouse
the dreamer with a burnisher, the artists’ tool used for erasing markings, gripped in his
claws, as if he is urging the artist to erase the foulness of the Enlightenment from public
Curled behind Goya’s back, a black cat glares mischievously, surrounded by menacing
owls with their wings widespread: screeching and howling terrors.The artist’s self-
insertion may lean toward anti-Enlightened thought, since he sides with more Baroque
allegories of dreaming and the subconscious. Several scholars note that while it is difficult
to ascribe specific iconographical meanings to Goya’s prints, especially the imagined
creatures of Los Caprichos, there is symbolic significance in the monsters and animals
Goya chooses. For example, the lynx at the bottom right corner of the print could refer to
an emblem of fantasia or the “mental eye” (Levitine 1959). Goya’s iconographic allusion
in addition to references to the Dream world, subverts the universalizing narrative
imposed by the Enlightenment. Goya depicts particularity, individualism, and irrationality
personified in the artist who is overwhelmed by his personal imagination.
Instead of observing or schematizing the natural world, Goya envisions the
“nonrational possibilities of experience” (Ilie 1984). While past history cannot be
experienced, the imagination can. Goya’s embodiment of a “split character” in his Self
Portrait (1795-1800), similarly addresses duality, expressing that “Where the is light there
is also darkness and where there is reason there is also madness” (Ciofalo 1997). Dualism
is further realized through the understanding that a man cannot be fully “Enlightened”
without becoming wholly aware of the conscious and unconscious (dream) worlds.The
protagonist is in the midst of dreams that are a result of over-immersion in the ideology
of the Enlightenment; his terrors may serve as a reflection of his absorption in “ideas and
ideals that give little heed to reality” (Ciofalo 1997). In his depictions of the in-between
state, Goya’s reality must be balanced by recognition of the subconscious, a dream world
that is fantastically not of the rational world.
4.2 Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1848), The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la
razon produce monstruos) pl. 43 from Los Caprichos, 1799, etching, aquatint, drypoint, and burin on paper,
Gift of Owen and Leone Elliott, University of Iowa Museum of Art, 1976. 44AQ.