ART REVIEW – GOYA – BOBALICON – (SILLY IDIOT) c.1820 Etching.
On display at Manchester’s Moseley Street art Gallery in august 2009, this is one of Goya’s ‘Fantasies, Follies & Disasters’ etchings series, depicting plague, pestilence, and war, as Spain faced the madness of conflict with France during the Napoleonic Wars.
The etchings collectively precede the surrealism & dada movement work of the 20th century, vividly bringing nightmares to life. A common theme was to take the Spanish fiesta carnival and turn its happy grotesques and costumes into something dark, sinister 7 monstrous. Bobalicon was a traditional carnival figure, a giant, gangling, grinning fool, who danced and played the maracas, seeing no reason to be unhappy no matter what. Goya depicts him as a terrifying bogeyman, looming like a demented grinning maniac on a wealthy cloaked victim, with the ghosts of previous victims (in the form of spectral shrieking severed heads) swirling around behind the idiot howling in anguish.
The only light seems to be trapped behind the creature, so it seems impossible the victim can escape round the monster-fool to get away from him.
For Spain, the carnival is over – the happiness has turned to despair. Life is reduced to flight from death. Bobalicon dances on, uncaring, and even joining in the slaughter if it amuses him – Goya captures in his face the raw insanity of lost reason, and a sense of relentless lust. Bobalicon would make a great monster in a horror movie or super-hero V villain comic. It’s an unforgettable image and a frightening one.
Link – the etching - http://www.cecilhigginsartgallery.org/prints/Goyabigp497.htm
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