De Que Mal Morira? (Of What Illness Will He Die?)

Goya, Francisco

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Etching and aquatint

Annotated by:
Winkler, Mary
  • Date of entry: Jan-20-1998
  • Last revised: Apr-26-2012


In this satirical etching, a recumbent, slack-limbed man is attended by two shadow background figures (one of whom may be his wife) and his physician--a fashionably attired ass! The ass/physician is searching for the pulse of his patient, a pose that accentuates the ostentatiously large gem encircling his hoof.


In 1797, Goya began a series of etchings--Caprichos--aimed at discovering the vices and hypocrisies of his society, and at denouncing them by means of satire. Many of these caprichos depict asses acting the roles of pompous, wicked or foolish human beings. In this case, executed in 1799, Goya aims at the ineptitude and self-serving posturing of the medical profession of his day. The patient is clearly dead, yet his asinine physician earnestly continues searching for his pulse.

Primary Source

Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.