Francisco de Goya

The carnivorous vulture

The carnivorous vulture
Datos Generales
Ca. 1820 - 1823
177 x 221 mm
Técnica y soporte
Etching, burin, drypoint and burnisher
Reconocimiento de la autoría de Goya
Undisputed work
Ficha: realización/revisión
04 Jan 2011 / 24 May 2023

76 (in the top left-hand corner).


See Sad forebodings of what is to come.

In the third state test with drypoint and/or burin, some parts of the vulture have been shaded and reinforced. The outline of the gallows and the man's left hip and thigh have been reinforced with the burin line, with traces of the generalised false bite producing an aquatint effect on the ground. The figures and the sky are burnished.The title of the print was handwritten by Goya on the first and only series known to us at the time of its production, which the painter gave to his friend Agustín Ceán Bermúdez. Thus the title was subsequently engraved on the plate without any modification from Ceán Bermúdez's copy for the first edition of the Disasters of War published by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid in 1863.

A preparatory drawing of this engraving is in the Prado Museum

Análisis artístico

In the centre of the composition a giant bird, a vulture as the title of the engraving states, runs in terror with its wings outstretched. Behind him a peasant threatens him with a pitchfork and further back we see a large crowd watching the scene.

This image is linked by its formal treatment with the previous one, No. 75,  Charlatans' Parade and the following one, No. 77, The Rope Breaks. In all three, the compositional axis is a large figure extending its upper limbs.

As with the rest of the Emphatic Caprices, this engraving is very difficult to interpret. In some cases it has been thought that the vulture could be an allusion to the French army that was expelled from Spain by the people and, therefore, a reference to the end of the war. The animal is somewhat battered, with no tail or feathers, perhaps as a result of the harshness of the confrontation. The figures in the background who are fleeing in terror could be French soldiers who deserted.

Nigel Glendinning relates this engraving to a poem by Juan Bautista de Arriaza (Madrid, 1770-Madrid, 1837), Prophecy of the Pyrenees (1808), which was widely circulated during the War of Independence on account of its patriotic content. The Englishman was able to perceive certain analogies between the engraving of The Carnivorous Vulture and the stanzas of the Prophecy of the Pyrenees in which the following is said: "And flee among your warriors, / Like a band of butcher vultures". The English historian also believes that Goya may have been inspired by the work Gli animali parlanti (1801) by Giambattista Casti (Viterbo or Acquapendente, 1724-Paris, 1803).

One of the visual sources to which the Aragonese painter may have had recourse for this print is the engraving by Stefano della Bella (Florence, 1610-Florence, 1664) The Ostrich Hunt (ca.1650, Library degli Intronati, Siena) in which the animal with its wings spread out appears in the foreground. Della Bella closely captures the anguish of the animal about to be captured in a hunting scene, in which, until then, this aspect was completely irrelevant.


The plate is in the National Chalcography (cat. 327).

  • De grafiek van Goya
    Rijksmuseum Rijksprentenkabinet
    from November 13th 1970 to January 17th 1971
  • Francisco de Goya
    Museo d'Arte Moderna
    exhibition celebrated from September 22nd to November 17th.
  • Francisco Goya. Sein leben im spiegel der graphik. Fuendetodos 1746-1828 Bordeaux. 1746-1996
    Galerie Kornfeld
    from November 21st 1996 to January 1997
  • Francisco Goya. Capricci, follie e disastri della guerra
    San Donato Milanese
    Opere grafiche della Fondazione Antonio Mazzotta
  • Goya et la modernité
    Pinacothèque de Paris
    from October 11st 2013 to March 16th 2014
  • BERUETE Y MONET, Aureliano de
    Goya, grabador
    MadridBlass S.A.
    cat. 178
  • HARRIS, Tomás
    Goya engravings and lithographs, vol. I y II.
    OxfordBruno Cassirer
    cat. 196
  • GASSIER, Pierre y WILSON, Juliet
    Vie et ouvre de Francisco de Goya
    ParísOffice du livre
    cat. 1126
    A solution to the enigma of Goya’s emphatic caprices nº 65-80 of The Disasters of War
  • SANTIAGO, Elena M. (coordinadora)
    Catálogo de las estampas de Goya en la Biblioteca Nacional
    MadridMinisterio de Educación y Cultura, Biblioteca Nacional
    cat. 299
  • OROPESA, Marisa and RINCÓN GARCÍA, Wilfredo
    ParísPinacoteca de París
    p. 157
    Goya. In the Norton Simon Museum
    PasadenaNorton Simon Museum
    pp. 114-151
Enlaces externos
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