It wasn’t a particularly auspicious start. On February 6, 1799, an announcement appeared on the front page of the Diario de Madrid advertising Los Caprichos:
A series of prints of whimsical subjects, invented and etched by Don Francisco Goya. The artist, persuaded that the censure of human errors and vices—though it seems to belong properly to oratory and poetry—may also be the object of painting, has chosen as appropriate subjects for his work, among the multitude of extravagances and follies which are common throughout civilized society, and among vulgar prejudices and frauds rooted in custom, ignorance, or interest, those which he has believed to be most apt to provide an occasion for ridicule and at the same time to exercise his imagination.
The advertisement goes on to assure potential collectors that the subjects of the prints are imaginary and that “in none of the compositions constituting this series has the artist proposed to ridicule the particular defects of this or that individual…”
It closes with the address where the prints can be bought—the ironically named No. 1 Calle del Desengaño, or Street of Disillusion #1—and the price: 320 reales for the set, the equivalent of one ounce of gold. The unusual venue, a perfume and liquor store near Goya’s apartment, was the result of the artist not being able to find a regular bookshop to handle the sale, according to Goya biographer Robert Hughes.
The venture was a resounding failure. Only 27 sets of the edition of 300 sold, and Goya withdrew Los Caprichos from public sale shortly after their release, afraid of falling foul of the Inquisition. It was a substantial monetary loss for the artist.