Francisco Goya y Lucientes – The sleep of reason produces monsters (c. 1799)
Goya’s depiction of a sleeping man – the artist – assailed by monsters of the night is an image of reason’s frailty made at the end of the Enlightenment, the great 18th century movement that sought to change the world with encyclopaedias, scientific demonstrations and the first factories. Goya’s pessimistic yet also compassionate view is that reason only ever rules part of our minds. It must share the world with nightmares. At the dawn of the modern age, this great image echoes old depictions of the Temptations of St. Anthony, whose assailants have not gone away after all.