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Fernando Botero (b. 1932)
Fernando Botero (b. 1932)


Fernando Botero (b. 1932)
signed 'Botero' (lower right)
oil on canvas
71 x 50 in. (180.3 x 127 cm.)
Painted in 1984.
Marlborough Gallery, New York.
Anon sale, Christie's, New York, 28 May 1997, lot 45.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
E. Leiser, Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin, Botero's Corrida, July 1985, p.26 (illustrated in color).
J.M. Caballero Bonald, Botero: The Bullfight, New York, Rizzoli, 1989, p..58 (illustrated).
E. Sullivan et al., Fernando Botero, Monograph and Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings 1975-1990, Lausanne, Sylvio Acatos, 2000, p. 354, no. 1984/13 (illustrated).
New York, Marlborough Gallery, Inc., La Corrida: The Bullfight Paintings, 25 April - 25 May, 1985, p. 35, n. 6 (illustrated).
Post Lot Text
1 Fernando Botero, quoted in Botero: La corrida (Madrid: Fundación Central Hispano, 1997), 16.

Lot Essay

Growing up in Medellín, Botero dreamed of becoming a bullfighter. First exposed to the centuries-old sport by his uncle, a passionate aficionado of tauromachy, Botero spent many afternoons in his youth observing the graceful pases or movements of the matadors at the city's famed Plaza de la Macarena. Determined to immerse himself in this deeply-rooted tradition, Botero enrolled in the Escuela de Tauromaquia de la Plaza de Medellín. While Botero eventually abandoned his childhood dream, choosing instead to dedicate himself to art, bullfighting has continued to occupy his imagination. Indeed, from his earliest years in art school in the 1950s up to the present day, matadors, picadors, banderilleros and bulls have consistently appeared in Botero's paintings, drawings and sculptures.
In addition to Botero's first-hand knowledge of la corrida, he is also acutely aware of its many art historical representations. Goya, Manet and Picasso are just a few of the artists who have reveled in portraying the sport, often choosing to render the bloody climactic moment in the encounter between man and bull. Goya's La muerte del picador (Fig. 1), for example, depicts a writhing mass of human and animal flesh in which a picador is horned by a bull while his horse is trampled underfoot.
By contrast, Botero's bullfights often portray the sport as an elegant, dignified dance between man and beast. In the present work, Botero’s matador deftly handles his muleta, the small red cape, in a specific technique known as a derechazo, a right-handed pase which brings the powerful bull close enough to almost graze the body of the matador. The matador’s placid expression and gracefully raised arm and leg suggest the lithe fluidity of a ballet dancer rather than the brute force of a man confronting a savage beast. The bull also appears to hold himself steady in this showdown to death. Despite having already been pierced by banderillas, the bull stands upright, seemingly enveloping his dance partner with his formidable hulking body. While this duo performs in front of a packed crowd of spectators, represented by the blurred half-moon faces crammed into the stadium, Botero offers his viewers front row seats to this intimate mortal play between man and beast.
Derechazo also tackles the formal aspects of painting as a subject in and of itself. Indeed, Botero has asserted, "In my paintings, I am not interested in the drama of the corrida but rather in the formal possibilities that this subject matter offers." [1] The corrida, Botero has observed, with its rich pageantry of color and strong play of lines demarcating the ring from the spectators, is an ideal subject for exploring the inherent qualities of painting. In Derechazo, Botero calls our attention to balanced harmonies of color and the repeating pattern of lines found in the curvature of the stadium, allowing him to break with the traditional depictions of bullfighting as seen in the work of such earlier precedents as Goya, and instead to create a distinctly modern vision.

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