Lot 27
  • 27

FRANCISCO JOSÉ DE GOYA Y LUCIENTES | La Tauromaquia (Delteil 224-56; Harris 204-36)

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Francisco de Goya
  • La Tauromaquia (Delteil 224-56; Harris 204-36)
  • each sheet: approx. 310 by 438mm 12 1/4 by 17 1/4 in
The complete set, comprising 33 etchings with burnished aquatint and lavis, drypoint and engraving, 1816, fine impressions from the First Edition, published by the artist, Madrid, 1816, printed in dark umber ink, Plates 2 and 23 with the Serra watermark, accompanied by the explanatory title page (with the Bartolome Mongelos watermark), on laid paper, loose (as issued)


Ex coll. Marcel Louis Guérin (L. 1872b, this set cited in Lugt), sold in his sale, Hôtel Drouot Paris, 9 December 1921 (Loys Delteil referenced as the expert); Tomás Harris, (L. 4921); with P. & D. Colnaghi London, 1976; sold Christie's London, 4 December 2007, Lot 201, where acquired by the present owner


The complete set, in good condition, a couple of sheets with short, repaired tears along the sheet edges, a few sheets with minor paper losses towards the lower left corner, occasional pale discoloration and fox marks in the margins, some sheets with uneven paper discoloration verso, Plates 5, 9 and 13 with minor crayon marks in the margins, Plates 14, 15, 17 and 21 with a small brown stain in one margin, the sheets loose (as issued), each in a window mount, contained in three solander boxes. (Several plates with residual printer's ink and printer's creases in the margins, inherent to production).
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

‘It is hard to think of any other artist’s graphic work that combines such perceptions of animal grace and power with such wonder at the gratuitous stubbornness of human courage as Goya’s Tauromaquia. It has the peculiar grace that art about art can sometimes achieve; it has the fascinated reverence that Degas, decades later, would display in his drawings and paintings of the ballet; and it is probably the most deeply felt tribute to other artists (apart from Velázquez and Rembrandt) in all of Goya’s work… Homage it may have been, but an evasive homage that skirted true comparison.’ (Robert Hughes, Goya, p. 365).  

La Tauromaquia, a set of 33 prints that illustrates the art of bullfighting from its medieval origins through to Goya’s day, is one of the artist’s most celebrated and technically masterful works in any medium. Goya printed and published the plates in 1816; he was by then 70 years old and at the height of his artistic capacities.


By this mature stage in his career, the subject of bullfighting had held a lifelong significance for the artist. In these plates, as Robert Hughes describes: ‘Goya was looking back, mainly to experiences of his youth, when he was an aficionado and may even, so legend and rumour had it, have got in the ring with his own sword… Charles Yriarte, one of Goya’s earliest biographers, wrote that he had seen a letter from him to Martín Zapater (now lost) signed “Francisco, el de los toros [he of the bulls].” Certainly, he always found pleasure and sometimes a kind of psychic healing—a relief from depression—in going to the corrida.’ (Robert Hughes, Goya, p. 359).


The present set of Goya’s Tauromaquia is a fine example from the first and only lifetime edition of the series. The quality of the impressions in the set is excellent: they are printed in a dark umber ink, characteristic of the earlier sets from the edition, and the aquatint, which quickly degrades during the process of printing, is seen here intact. This is crucial to the visual impact of the works, as it is only when the aquatint in the Tauromaquia plates prints so richly and evenly that the impressions display the full qualities of chiaroscuro, with brilliant contrasts and subtle nuances in tonality, and the marvellous sense of space and three dimensionality, that Goya must have originally envisaged.


The importance of this set is enhanced by its notable provenance. Early in their history the plates belonged to the esteemed collector, writer and publisher, Marcel Louis Guérin. When Guérin sold his collection in a 1921 sale in Paris, the expert in charge of the sale was Loys H. Delteil, whose formative publication, Le Peintre-Graveur Illustré, comprised two volumes on Goya. The set since formed part of the collection of Tomás Harris, author of Goya: Engravings and Lithographs (1964): the culmination of a lifelong dedication to studying Goya’s prints and still the canonical source on the subject.