Images of prisoners

This section on depictions of prisoners in art was written for Stateville Speaks by Stephen F. Eisenman, a professor in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University. See the sidebar for more images.
Below is an etching by the Spaniard Francisco Goya.  Inspired by the writings of the Italian criminologist Cesare Beccaria and other Enlightenment philosophers, Goya rejected torture and the long-term, solitary confinement of criminals and the insane.  His drawings and etchings of prisoners were intended to shame those in the monarchy and Catholic Church who supported the Inquisition and its attendant horrors.  Even today, Goya’s name is synonymous with the condemnation of cruel and unusual punishment.
etching by Goya

etching by Goya, c. 1815

Below is “The Rake in Bedlam,” from the series,  A Rake’s Progress by the Englishman William Hogarth, 1733.  The engraving shows the once rich Tom Rakewell, reduced to penury and madness.  In the 18th Century, it was common to lock up criminals, the poor and the all insane together, and to allow the rich (notice the two ladies at the rear), to pay a few cents to observe the spectacle.  Such treatment was generally ended in most nations by the early 19th Century.  But the practice of imprisoning the insane alongside the sane still continues in some penitentiaries in the United States and elsewhere.

"The Rake in Bedlam" from the series, A Rake's Progress by the Englishman William Hogarth, 1733.

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