Anatomy of An Artwork: Ritual & Tradition in Goya's Tauromaquia

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Launch Slideshow

Sotheby's Prints & Multiples auction on 4th April begins with an exceptional collection of Old Master prints, the highlight of which is a very fine first edition of Goya's Tauromaquia. The set is in near pristine condition and has a distinguished and uninterrupted provenance that can be traced back to its creation in early 19th century Madrid. The Tauromaquia provides an unparalleled insight into both the genius of Goya's aquatint and etching technique, and the depth and complexity of his subject matter. Click through to learn more about this fascinating artwork.

Prints & Multiples
4 April | London 

Anatomy of An Artwork: Ritual & Tradition in Goya's Tauromaquia

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, The Tauromaquia (Delteil 224-256; Harris 204-236). Estimate: £300,000—500,000.
  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, The Tauromaquia (Delteil 224-256; Harris 204-236). Estimate: £300,000—500,000.
    Goya and Bulls



     



    Goya had long been inspired by the subject of bullfighting; in a painting of 1780, he even depicted himself in the costume of a torero. The Tauromaquia series explores the history of bullfighting, from its ancient origins in Spain, through the time of Muslim rule, the Christian Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and culminating with the well-known figures of the two main schools of bullfighting during the 18th-century. In these plates, Goya depicted both the continuing trend of the struggle of man and beast for survival, and modern evolutions such as the daring acrobatics of the celebrated toreros of his own day. 

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, The Tauromaquia (Delteil 224-256; Harris 204-236). Estimate: £300,000—500,000.
    The Provenance



     



    This Tauromaquia set was acquired between 1816 and 1823 by the Duke and French Ambassador to the court of Madrid, Anne Adrien Pierre de Montmorency Laval. The works then travelled with the Duke in 1831 to his newly purchased château de Montigny in France. It was in the library of this château that the set was recently re-discovery by the direct descendants of this prominent 19th century figure. 

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, The Tauromaquia (Delteil 224-256; Harris 204-236). Estimate: £300,000—500,000.
    The Subject



     



    Believed to have been recognisable to his contemporaries, Goya did not expound upon the characters he depicted in the Tauromaquia. This particular torero is believed to be the famous and daring Martincho pictured in the bullring at Saragossa, preparing to leap over the charging bull with his ankles chained together.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, The Tauromaquia (Delteil 224-256; Harris 204-236). Estimate: £300,000—500,000.
    The Technique



     



    Throughout his career, Goya perfected the still novel technique of aquatint. He used it in this set with great success, creating enhanced depth and chiaroscuro. This technique is shown in the soft, grainy tones of umber that create a background to these etchings. Named after its ability to produce a watercolour effect, aquatint is produced with the use of a ground, commonly resin-based. This would be dusted over the plate and then heated to produce tiny (acid resistant) spots of resin around which the acid would bite into the plate's surface. According to the size of the ground particles and the length of time the plate is left in the acid, the printmaker has a great deal of control over the final result. 

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, The Tauromaquia (Delteil 224-256; Harris 204-236). Estimate: £300,000—500,000.
    The Condition



     



    This set was discovered within the pages of a 19th century banking ledger. Apparently having lived the majority of its life on a shelf in the Ducal library, the impressions have been largely undisturbed by human handling or the elements. The size of the ledger also allowed for the sheets to remain untrimmed. The condition of the set is thus remarkably pristine. 

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