Sympathizing With a Frustrated Reformer in Madrid, Spain
It's easy to lose sight of the humanity of the principled people of the Enlightenment who toiled to bring our political systems out of the dark ages. These were the original policy wonks: economists, philosophers, and politicians. The situation in Spain at the end of the 18th century was particularly dire and Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos fought tooth and nail to get a country in crisis to shake off its outdated and feudal ways. Goya's portrait captures the personal toll exacted by such an ambitious (and ill-fated) enterprise. The goddess of wisdom hovers just over the idealistic economist's shoulder. However, the strain and sense of resignation on his face betray a more earthly reality that no one understood better than Goya: the fight for a just society is a purely human endeavor.