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In the Desastres de la guerra series, instead of offering up a general view of each scene, Goya made extremely focused compositions. Normally he worked within two planes, dispensing with the illusionistic depiction of depth. Likewise, he utilized stage devices in order to construct a realist and believable work that would implicate the viewer.
In this etching, which belongs to the so-called Caprichos enfáticos [Emphatic Caprichos], a character—possibly a figure of the church—is sitting down and writing. He has bat wings for ears and long nails representing greed grow out of his hands and feet. In the background a group of people in despair is visible. The protagonist is perhaps a scribe who is busy drafting laws that go against the greater good, “el bien general.” The churchman would thus be an inquisitor; it is important to note that the Inquisition was present in Spain until 1834, when it was abolished by the Queen consort María Cristina.
The bat wings may reference the work Gli animali parlanti [The Talking Animals] by Giambattista Casti (Viterbo or Acquapendente, 1724 – Paris, 1803). In it, the head vampire leads a group of greedy notaries, delinquents, and economists who become councilors to the Crown.
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