The Sleep of Reason

sleep of reason

John, a graduate student in neurobiology at Cornell, writes, “Anyway, here’s my “science tattoo” and a bit of back story. It’s not directly science, but more like philosophy of science. It’s a piece by Francisco Goya, El Sueno de la Razon Produce Monstros. It means “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”, and it is part of his series of lithographs in the book Los Caprichos, which was highly critical of the Spanish Aristocracy of the time (1799). I first saw this image when I was in AP Art History in Highschool, about 9 years ago. Within seconds of seeing it, I thought to myself that this would be my first tattoo– and finally, it is! I had never seen an original print, though, even having  been to the Prado museum in Madrid. However, I happened to google it differently back in March and found that there was a print here at Cornell in the Johnson museum! I finally got to see it, and the staff there had me come back to get a picture of the tattoo next to the original, which they published in their seasonal magazine.”

Carl: Here is the original print, from Cornell’s Herbert Johnson museum’s web site.

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0 thoughts on “The Sleep of Reason

  1. Minor nitpick — along with missing diacritics in the original, the translation isn’t exactly the best for me. I would say “The dream of reason produces monsters.” (sueño literally means “dream”, usually in the sense of the dreams you have when you’re asleep.) I might replace “produces” with “creates” or something else to be more idiomatic, as well, but it’s not all that bad.

  2. I don’t have the Spanish, but the full epigraph for caprichio #43 goes something like this:

    “Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels.”

    I take this to mean that without reason’s guiding hand, the imagination will create terrible things. This seems to be the opposite of a “dream of reason” since reason must be conscious. Though maby I pick a nit as well.

  3. the translation is fine and is what is regarded as the correct translation for the piece.

    to dream about (or “of”) something is “soñar con”, so if it were the “dream of reason” it would be “el sueño con la razón”

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