The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters is an etching by the Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya. Created between 1797 and 1799 for the Diario de Madrid, it is the 43rd of the 80 etchings making up the satirical Los Caprichos.
Many suggest that the artist Goya depicts himself asleep amidst his drawing tools, his reason dulled by slumber, bedeviled by creatures that prowl in the dark. The work includes owls that may be symbols of folly and bats symbolizing ignorance. Implied in Goyas preparatory inscription, the artists nightmare reflects his view of Spanish society, which he portrayed in the Caprichos as demented, corrupt, and ripe for ridicule. The full epigraph for capricho No. 43 reads; "Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her reason, she fantasy is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels."
Occasionally the title phrase is rendered as "The dream of reason produces monsters", since the Spanish word "sueño" can mean either "sleep" or "dream".
Goyas etching, and its title, perhaps recalls the words of Teresa of Avila 1515-1582 "For since this humour, 7, 2).
1. Preparatory drawings
Goya produced preparatory drawings for all the prints in the "Los caprichos" series. One drawing suggests that The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters was being considered for use as the frontispiece of the collection, although in the event it was not used for this purpose in the printed version which starts with a self-portrait.
2. Technical aspects
As a set "Los caprichos" is notable for its use of aquatint. In The Sleep of Reason there is a contrast between the etched lines of the foreground and the areas of tone, produced by aquatint, which are used for the creatures in the background.