Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes
- Francisco de Goya
- the eagle hunter
- Drawn with the point of the brush and brown wash;
numbered at the top with the point of the brush: 84 and in pen and brown ink 38;
bears pencil inscription at the bottom: Dénicheur d'aigles
The artist's son, Javier Goya y Bayeu (died 1854);
his son, Mariano Goya y Goicochea;
Federico de Madrazo (his numbering recto, upper right: 38, album III) and/or Román Garreta y Huerta (by circa 1855-60);
Paul Lebas, Paris;
sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 3 April 1877, lot 53, 'Dénicheur d'aigles', fig. 3, to Emile Calando (11 fr.);
E. Calando (L.837), his inscription in pencil at the bottom of the page: Denicheur d'aigles;
E. Calando fils (bears his numbering, verso, in pencil: 1472, and inscription: 'n. 53 vente du? rechercher le catalogue/de dessins de Goya' );
by descent to Pierre Emile F. Calando (1904-1992);
Private collection, France
Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, Goya's realism, 2000, no. 4, illustrated
Pierre Gassier, 'Une source inédite de dessins de Goya en France au XIXe siècle', Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1972, p. 113, no. 53 not illustrated;
Idem, The Drawings of Goya: The Complete Albums, London 1973, p. 497, listed under 'Lost Drawings' as F.h;
Idem, 'Des oeuvres inédites de Goya?', L'oeil, Magazine International d'art, no. 482, September-October 1996, pp. 85-6 illustrated, fig.3
In this unique and impressive image, Goya captures with his typical dark power the dangers associated with the perilous activity of robbing an eagle's nest. The drawing originates from the Sepia, or Images of Spain, Album (F), one of the artist's eight "Private Albums" -- series of drawings which Goya himself gathered together into volumes at various stages in his career.1 The Images of Spain album concludes with a group of serene hunting scenes, reminiscences of the sport that Goya had enjoyed so much in his younger days, but although the general theme of the present drawing can be associated with those works, its mood is profoundly different, and much more threatening.
Writing of this drawing in her Copenhagen exhibition catalogue entry, Juliet Wilson-Bareau describes the dramatic scene, dominated by the sheer, bare wall of rock and the eagle's nest: "...the life of the hunter rests on a single rope as he hovers in the empty air over the nest he is raiding of its young ones". The danger that the nest-robber faces, already very considerable, is increased immeasurably by the imminent return of the eagle, which is swooping down from above, bringing its prey back to its young. The hunter, unaware of what is about to happen to him, "..literally sways between life and death". Pierre Gassier, when first publishing this rediscovered drawing, also emphasized the particularity and extraordinary intensity of the subject: ".. le sujet .... est un des plus curieux que l'on puisse rencontrer chez Goya.. '.2 Gassier also suggested the possibility that the drawing could illustrate a proverb: 'Tel est pris qui croyait prendre' .
The tension-filled theme of The Hunter Hunted is a classic Goya subject, which would surely have appealed enormously to his imagination. The handling too reflects the drama of the scene: the drawing is executed with great intensity and emphasis on light and shadow, boldly rendered with the brush. Of all Goya's albums, it is Album F, from which this drawing originates, that contains the greatest variety of subjects and compositions. The sheets from this album are executed in iron gall writing ink on Spanish paper. In general, many of Goya's album drawings are inscribed by the artist with captions and titles to illuminate the subjects, but only three drawings from Album F are inscribed in this way. Writing of this album, Gassier observed: "All at once...., his voice falls silent and the pictures alone remain, expressing, purely in terms of line and wash, the complex world of the artist's innermost thoughts".3
In Gassier's opinion, the drawings in Album F were executed circa 1815-1820. Juliet Wilson-Bareau, for her part, sees close similarities with drawings from the Inquisition Album (circa 1808-1814), so is inclined to believe that Album F was at least begun at around the same time, circa 1812, and used until perhaps 1820, whereas Eleanor Sayre locates the album towards the end of this range, circa 1817-20.4 The pages of Album F are numbered with the brush at the top, in Goya's hand, the highest known number being 106. On the present sheet, the number 84 was written by Goya, while the 38 is in the hand of Federico de Madrazo (see Provenance). It appears that Goya's son, Javier, consolidated the eight original Private Albums into just three large volumes after his father's death in 1828, but respected the page order established by his father. After Javier's death in 1854, the albums passed in turn to his son, Mariano Goya y Goicochea, before being acquired by Federico de Madrazo together with his brother-in-law Román Garretta y Huerta. It seems it was Madrazo who removed Goya's drawings from the three larger volumes assembled by Javier, splitting them into groups to be either sold or kept for his own collection. Those that he chose to keep were renumbered, disregarding the original order of the pages, pasted down onto distinctive sheets of pink paper, one of which we see here, and bound into three new albums.5 The present drawing became sheet number 38 in the third of Madrazo's albums.
Later, the drawing was part of the important group of works by Goya assembled in the late 19th century by the French collector Emile Calando,6 who owned at least 35 drawings by Goya (see fig. 1, overleaf). Ten of those, including the present sheet, were bought at a single Paris sale in 1877 (see Provenance), when no fewer than 105 drawings by Goya were sent for sale by Paul Lebas, most probably acting on behalf of Madrazo.7
The Goya drawings from the Calando collection, now dispersed through various public and private collections throughout the world, included many spectacular and highly important sheets, but none more characteristic of Goya's artistic genius and unique vision than this. Executed with great visual economy, leaving large areas of the composition totally blank, this composition encapsulates the artist's ability to unite farce and tragedy in a single image of almost unbearable tension and pathos. At first sight the ungainly, dangling nest-robber cuts a thoroughly comic figure, yet closer inspection reveals that he is unwittingly about to be transformed, in the blink of an eye, into a tragic victim, with the arrival of the furious returning eagle.
1. For a full account of these albums, see J. Wilson-Bareau, Goya, drawings from his private albums, exhibition catalogue, London, Hayward Gallery, 2001
2. Gassier 1996, loc. cit.
3. Gassier 1973, op. cit., p. 385
4. See Wilson-Bareau, op. cit., pp. 91-2
5. For a detailed later history of the albums see Ibid, pp. 24-5
6. See F. Lugt, Les Marques de Collection, Amsterdam 1956, p. 150, no. 837
7. See Gassier 1996, op.cit., p. 85