Title: El Sueño
Date: c.1800
Medium: Oil on canvas
46.5 x 76 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1969 (Shaw Fund)
Object Number: NGI.1928
DescriptionGoya’s portrayal of a sleeping girl continues to intrigue, and is a painting tour de force in muted silver greys and browns, with soft light illuminating the girl’s hair and catching the gold decoration of her low-cut bodice. Her face is turned away in half-shadow, adding to the sense of mystery. Night subjects by Goya tend to have references to the darker side of the human spirit, however there is a sense of undisturbed innocence here. He often worked at night, by candlelight, to create chiaroscuro effects. The canvas’s shape has led to suggestions that this was a decorative over-door. There was a painting by him of the same subject in the collection of Sebastián Martínez of Cadiz, which cannot now be traced. Goya spent several months in Cadiz in the winter of 1792-93, recovering from a serious illness, but that work is generally dated later, judging by the handling of the brushwork. Similar sketchy brushwork and dappled light can be seen in the clothed Maja (c.1800-05; Prado, Madrid), who is a more provocative sitter.
Goya had a long and varied career as a tapestry designer, royal painter, portraitist and fresco painter. In his prints, he was also a chronicler of the horrors of a corrupt society and of war. Going deaf in 1792 seems to have heightened his sensitivity as an artist. He eventually went into exile in 1824.

March 2016

Exhibition HistoryShades of Grey: Painting without Colour, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 22 June - 29 September 2013
Label TextGoya is known for his depictions of nightmarish visions such as The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (1797-99). This scene is therefore unusual for its gentle intimacy. A young woman is shown sleeping in a darkened space. The artist creates a sense of mystery by half concealing her face in shadow. The light fabric of her dress is highlighted with touches of gold, as though illuminated by moon or candlelight. Indeed, Goya often worked at night-time as he found candlelight conducive to creating chiaroscuro effects. The painting’s horizontal format has led to suggestions that it was originally designed as a decorative over-door.

This website uses cookies

We use optional cookies to enhance your user experience and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our analytics partners who may combine it with other information that you’ve provided to them or that they’ve collected from your use of their services.


About Cookies

Cookies are small text files that can be used by websites to make a user's experience more efficient. The law states that we can store cookies on your device if they are strictly necessary for the operation of this site. For all other types of cookies we need your permission. This site uses different types of cookies. Some cookies are placed by third party services that appear on our pages. You can at any time change or withdraw your consent from the Cookie Declaration on our website. Learn more about who we are, how you can contact us and how we process personal data in our Privacy Policy. Please state your consent ID and date when you contact us regarding your consent.

Necessary Cookies

Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

JSESSIONIDeMuseumUser SessionSessionHTTP

Statistics Cookies

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

_gaGoogle Tag ManagerRegisters a unique ID that is used to generate statistical data on how the visitor uses the website.2 yearsJavaScript
_gidGoogle Tag ManagerRegisters a unique ID that is used to generate statistical data on how the visitor uses the website.1 dayJavaScript