Goya, Francisco (Spanish, 1746-1828)

The Madhouse

Reference Type:
c. 1816
At first glance, since mental institutions were a common topic of discussion during the Spanish Enlightenment, this image might be interpreted as a criticism of the current situation. However, since inmates would not normally have had access to the types of props included in the painting, Goya more likely intended it as a satire of various forms of authority. For example, the man in the tricorn hat, who fights an invisible enemy with a pretend gun, could be a parody of the army. The figure standing under the window wears a crown of feathers and looks as if he is extending his hand to be kissed, as if he were royalty. Another satire of royalty might be the seated man leaning against the column in a crown decorated with cards and holding a scepter. The man at the lower right also wears a crown and offers a religious style blessing, perhaps in mockery of the Spanish clergy. The inmates huddled against the wall might represent the Spanish people, whom Goya frequently criticized for blindly and willingly submitting to this type of authority. Notes by Mariann Smith
History of Medicine
Mental Disorders
Mental Illness
Royal Academy of San Fernando, Madrid