Who Will Bell the Cat? features four men dressed in Oriental clothing nervously trying to put bells on an enormous Indian elephant. The meaning of this humorous etching has been widely debated by historians, but they largely agree that it is a satirical political cartoon targeted at King Ferdinand’s ineffective rule. In his quest to restore absolute power to the throne, Ferdinand was arguing for the abolishment of the 1812 constitution. The men in Goya’s image are probably “The Persians” – the nickname for the King’s conservative advisers. They are feebly attempting to subdue the elephant, perhaps a symbol for the much larger body politic.
- Artist: Francisco de Goya
- Year: c. 1816-23
- Reference: Harris 268
- Size: 9 1/2 x 13 3/4 inches
- Medium: Etching, aquatint, and drypoint on paper
- Edition: From the first edition published in 1877