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PROPERTY FROM A SWISS PRIVATE COLLECTION (LOTS 65, 66 AND 67)
The following three drawings come from two of Goya's celebrated Private Albums. They constitute a major rediscovery as although known from old descriptions, they were untraced since 1877 when they were included in a sale at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris, titled Catalogue de 105 dessins par Francisco Goya, from which - apart from the holdings in the Museo nacional del Prado - came the great majority of Goya's drawings in museums and collections around the world.
The Private Albums
In 1796 Goya, at the age of fifty, began filling pages of albums with drawings of people observed in various attitudes and occupied in various ways, singly or in groups. He was to keep up this practice until the end of his life, some thirty years later. In all he created eight albums of varying length and size which originally included some 550 drawings. In 1958 Eleanor Sayre described and defined the characteristics of the eight albums, suggesting a chronology and labelling the albums with the letters A to H ('An Old Man Writing. A Study of Goya's Albums', Boston Museum Bulletin, LVI, pp. 116-36). Twelve years later in their monumental Goya His Life and Work with a catalogue raisonné of the paintings, drawings and engravings (London, 1970), Pierre Gassier and Juliet Wilson catalogued every known sheet from the albums and illustrated them in the order laid down by Goya. In 1973 Gassier published The Drawings of Goya. The Complete Albums (London; the original French edition appeared in the same year) where he studied each album separately, proposed a new chronological order, and illustrated actual size the drawings then known. Seven years ago Juliet Wilson-Bareau organized the first exhibition solely devoted to the albums (Goya drawings from his private albums, London, Hayward Gallery, 2001). The present text owes a lot to her catalogue and to her introduction to it.
The drawings from the albums are not preparatory studies for pictures or prints, although some images from Albums A and B, the Sanlucar and Madrid Albums, drawn in the mid 1790s, were the starting point for prints in his famous set of eighty Caprichos published in 1799. Drawing as a preliminary to painting was of no interest to Goya. He drew directly on the canvas with his brush. As Eleanor Sayre stated, the albums are 'not notebooks containing a casual assembly of portrait heads, drapery studies and composition sketches. Neither were they any longer sketchbooks preserving the intermittent record of places he saw and picturesque figures which might be used again. They had been transmuted by him into journals, drawn not written, whose pictorial entries of varying length pertained predominantly to what Goya thought rather than what he saw' (1958, op. cit., p. 120). The drawings in the albums show Goya's 'intuitive grasp of the human condition [that] was based on observation but not limited by it or by convention or by canons of taste and tradition. Human passions, human desires, human fears are his unique concern expressed through a vast range of subjects, from mundane aspects of everyday reality to the most profoundly spiritual themes' (Wilson-Bareau, 2001, op. cit., p. 23).
Their unique individual character
Goya created these albums for his own satisfaction, and in his lifetime they were seen only by him and his close friends and family, and it is unlikely that they were seen in their original condition by anyone else. Though drawings from the same album can vary widely in their subject matter, Goya seems to have planned the albums as single works, each one as a coherent whole. In fact, Goya numbered all the albums himself except the first, which indicates that the sequence of the drawings was a matter of considerable importance to him. He liked to oppose one drawing to the next. For instance, Bajan riñendo (They go down quarrelling) (lot 65), representing women falling while fighting, was the first page of Album D, also called Witches and Old Women Album, and was directly followed by Suben alegres (They rise up joyfully), now in the Louvre (Gassier, op. cit., 1973, no. 96), showing an old couple happily playing the tambourine while flying...
Each album is consistent in technique and the type of paper used. Goya preferred Dutch paper (as in Album D whence comes lot 65), but also used Spanish (as in Album F whence come lots 66 and 67) or French paper as circumstances dictated. Six of the eight albums consist of brush and wash drawings, but the last two, also called Bordeaux Albums, are executed in black chalk. No arbitrary changes of technique occur from one sheet to the next. For the drawings in wash, there is virtually no black chalk underdrawing. Sometimes a pale, almost invisible, tracery of dots and lines reveals the initial placement of a figure on the page. This kind of indication can be observed on the Constable Lampiños stitched inside a dead horse (lot 67), especially on the body of the animal. Goya also used a scraper - probably an etcher's tool, a knife or a razor - to lighten certain areas, to remove a patch of wash, to modify an element in the drawing. This kind of reworking is noticeable on Bajan riñendo (lot 65).
The inscriptions or captions play a key role in the albums: according to Gassier, who characterized them as commentary-captions, 'their telling, incisive style reflects the artist's personality and amounts to an actual signature. [Inscriptions] point the irony, express surprise, venture a statement, but never overstate... Often Goya exclaims or wonders, but his true originality and incomparable force lies in his way of apostrophizing his figures, questioning, advising, comforting, or even threatening them' (op. cit., 1973, p. 14).
Goya's albums after the artist's death
The history of the albums is gradually becoming clearer. We do not know what the original eight albums looked like. Some were bound notebooks, but others were loose sheets perhaps kept in a folder. At Goya's death they passed to his son Javier (1784-1854) who dismembered the albums and arranged the drawings in three larger bound volumes, although it seems that he respected the page order established by his father. But these composite albums containing around 450 sheets were broken up after Javier's death in 1854 when they were sold by Javier's son Mariano to the painter Federico de Madrazo (1815-1894), who replaced his father as Director of the Prado in 1860. According to Juliet Wilson-Bareau 'Madrazo evidently set aside almost 300 sheets, for sale or for gifts and presentations, and sorted the remaining sheets - some 170 - into three groups, destroying in fact the original sequencing. These he numbered in pen and ink in three different ways: in the upper right corner, the upper centre, and again in the upper right corner, with a curving bracket that distinguishes this numbering from the first. All the drawings - apart from those already given or sold - were then pasted onto sheets of pink paper and the majority were bound in three volumes' (op. cit., p. 24). The three re-discovered drawings are still on their original pink paper backing, which has been trimmed to the edges of the sheets.
It is the contents of two of the three volumes, once again dismembered, that appeared at auction in Paris on 3 April 1877. The auctioneer's book mentions the name of Paul Lebas as the seller but the latter was probably acting on behalf of Federico de Madrazo who in 1868 had lost his posts as Director of the Prado and as First Court Painter and would presumably not have wished to be identified as the owner of this treasure. The sale went almost unnoticed and its importance was only established in 1972 by Pierre Gassier in a major article (P. Gassier, 'Une source inédite de dessins de Goya en France au XIXe siècle', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, LXXX, 1972, pp. 110-120). The drawings, sold individually, briefly described, and totalling 105 lots, fetched between 6 and 140 French Francs. The prices seem respectable, but not outstanding if we compare them to those achieved thirteen years earlier at the Delacroix studio sale, where some of Delacroix's drawings were sold for more than 2,000 French Francs apiece. The main buyers at the 1877 sale were French collectors like Emile Calando, the Baron de Beurnonville and Paul Meurice. It is also known that the expert for the sale, Eugène Féral (1832-1900) made purchases on behalf of Victor Hugo. All the drawings in the 1877 sale were pasted onto large blue card mounts to which these three are still attached. One can still see the pinholes at the top of each mount made by the tacks that were used to hang them unframed on the walls of the Hôtel Drouot. At the sale, two drawings (Repentance and Constable Lampiños) remained unsold and the other one (Bajan riñendo) was knocked down to Féral, a fact that could indicate that like the two others it was returned to the seller or that all three sold after the sale to an unknown collector. They have remained together, unnoticed, and recorded only by their description in the Drouot sale catalogue. The fact that the three drawings are in exceptional condition owes much to the fact that they have never been framed nor exposed to light.
A recent assessment of the 1877 sale catalogue by Juliet Wilson-Bareau reveals that, following the reappearance of these three sheets, a further twelve drawings remain to be rediscovered. The importance of the 1877 sale as the principal source of Goya's finest drawings cannot be underestimated, and the three very different sheets presented here are superb examples of the inexhaustible fertility of Goya's imagination.