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Francisco José Goya y Lucientes* (1746-1828)
Francisco José Goya y Lucientes* (1746-1828)

Judith and Holofernes

Francisco José Goya y Lucientes* (1746-1828)
Judith and Holofernes
bears signature 'GOYA'
carbon black and watercolor on ivory
3 9/16 x 3 5/16in. (9 x 8.5cm.)
Probably taken to Madrid by Goya's son, after the artist's death in Bordeaux (see Matheron, op. cit., see under Literature below).
Edward Habich, Cassel; his sale, H.G. Gutekunst, Stuttgart, April 27-8 (=2nd day), 1889, lot 302.
V. von Loga, Francisco de Goya, 1903, p. 224 as 'doubtful'.
A. Mayer, Francisco de Goya, 1924, no. 17a.
M.S. Soria, Las miniaturas y retratos-miniaturas de Goya, Cobalto, XLIX, 2, 1949, no. 1, fig.1.
E.A. Sayre, Goya's Bordeaux Miniatures, Boston Museum Bulletin, LXIV, no. 337, 1966, pp. 86 and 116, no. 9, fig. 34 as 'tentatively accepted as by Goya'; and French translation in the catalogue of the exhibition, Goya, 1746-1828, Peintures - Dessins - Gravures, Paris, March 13-June 16, 1979 [no page no.].
J. Gudiol, Goya, Biography, Analytical Study and Catalogue of his Paintings, 1971, I, p. 341, no. 741; and IV, p. 988, fig. 1.236.
P. Gassier and J. Wilson, Goya, His Life and Work, 1971, p. 362, no. v.1681, illustrated.
R. de Angelis, L'opera pittorica completa di Goya, 1974, p. 136, no. 672.
X. de Salas, Goya, 1978, p. 204, no. 634.
Post Lot Text

Lot Essay

During the years 1824-5, while in exile in Bordeaux, Goya painted a group of approximately forty miniatures on ivory. Until Goya executed these extraordinary works of art, miniatures, precisely because of their small format, had always been treated by artists with great care in terms of line, color and clarity of form, whereas Goya's technique is remarkably expressionistic, resulting in an almost complete dissolution and distortion of form. Not since Hendrick Goltzius painted his astonishing 'penwercken' circa 1600 had an artist created such a revolutionary new technique in painting. Intriguingly, in doing so these artists combined techniques associated both with print making and oil painting. On 20 December 1825, Goya wrote to his friend Joaquin Maria Ferrer, '... last winter I painted on ivory and I have a collection of some forty experiments, but it is a new kind of miniature which I never saw before, because it is not done with stippling - things which look more like the brushwork of Velázquez than of Men[g]s. I have neither eyesight, pulse, pen or ink, I lack everything and the only thing I have in excess is will-power.'

In 1823 a young Spanish artist, Antonio Brugada left Spain and befriended the elderly Goya during his exile in Bordeaux. Brugada was fascinated by the artist's inventiveness and mastery of this new medium and gave detailed reports to the writer Laurent Matheron concerning Goya's new techniques. Brugada's descriptions were subsequently included in Matheron's account of Goya's life, published in Bordeaux and Paris in 1857 and 1858: 'His miniatures bore no resemblance to fine Italian miniatures. Goya had never been able to imitate anyone, and he was too old to begin. He blackened the ivory plaque and let fall on it a drop of water which removed part of the black ground as it spread out, tracing random light areas. Goya took advantage of these traces and always turned them into something original and unexpected. These little works were still in the vein of the caprichos; today they would be very much sought after, if the dear man had not wiped off many of them in order to economise on the ivory. Those that remained at his death were, I believe, taken to Madrid by his son' (L. Matheron, Goya, 1857, Chapter XI).

Of the original 'nearly forty' works executed in this revolutionary technique on ivory, we know of the precise whereabouts of only about twelve of them (mostly in museums), while another six, including the present work had up until now only been known from photographs. The present miniature and another six were formerly in the collection of Edward Habich, Cassel, until sold by him at H.G. Gutekunst, Stuttgart, on 27 April 1889 (see under Provenance above). Included in the Habich sale was the only other miniature with an Old Testament subject, a Susanna and the Elders, now in the S. Sebba Collection (see the catalogue of the exhibition, Goya: Truth and Fantasy, The Small Paintings, London, Royal Academy of Arts, March 17-June 12, 1994 and Chicago, Art Institute, July 16-October 16, 1994, p. 325, fig. 99, and p. 372, no. 99 (catalogue by Juliet Wilson-Bareau and Manuela B. Mena Marqués).

The thin slivers of ivory on which these extraordinary works are painted vary in size from about 5 x 5cm. to 9 x 8.5cm. (the size of this work). As described by Matheron, Goya worked the images from dark to light by lifting off or lightening areas of the lamp-black. He also used a kind of 'graffiti' technique whereby he scraped off some of the black, thus allowing the translucency of the white ivory to show through as a highlight, giving outline and depth to the figures, as if the artist was preparing a plate for a monotype. The same scratching and wiping technique was also used to remarkable effect in simulating things such as the whites of the eyes or teeth (see, for example, the miniature of Maja and a Celestina, sold at Sotheby's, New York, May 30, 1991, lot 83 ($500,000)). Goya would use the dark contours of the edges of the watercolor to suggest outlines, such as Judith's back in the present lot, and add washes or vivid touches of watercolour as in the blue of Judith's skirt and the red on the sword blade, the latter suggesting blood.

Many of the miniatures are clearly related to Goya's drawings and lithographs of the same years, and also to the 'Black Paintings' in his recently abandoned Quinta del Sordo. Indeed, his only other known painted treatment of this subject is a Judith and Holofernes now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, which once adorned the wall facing the entrance to the ground floor room in the Quinta. It is also tempting to presume that Goya may have known Adam Elsheimer's depiction of Judith and Holofernes, (painted circa 1601-3, oil on silvered copper, measuring 24.2 x 18.7cm.). That painting was sold from the estate of Sir Peter Paul Rubens to King Philip IV, and remained in Spain until taken as booty in 1813 by the 1st Duke of Wellington (now in the Wellington Museum, Apsley House, London). Certainly in both paintings the action is arranged very much towards the center and left hand portion of the picture, the angle of Holofernes's body and head are almost identical, and in both pictures the action takes place either at night or in a dark void that serves to intensify the violence and horror of the moment.

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