In La Tauromaquia, created and assembled between 1814 and 1816, Goya focused his attention on the drama of the bullfight. The series begins with illustrations of the origins and history of bullfighting and ends with the extraordinary acrobatic feats of Martincho, famous for his daring stunts, one of which involved him vaulting from a table over a bull with his feet shackled. Goya treats this event with his typically innovative style, relying less on etching and more on beautifully modulated aquatint to create remarkable spatial and formal effects. It is only in early impressions, such as the present lot, that the full effect of this aquatint is apparent. Whilst the subjects vary, consistent throughout the entire series is his almost painterly style which is especially evident in his use of shading. As Sanchez and Gallego point out, the Tauromaquia shows '...a masterly ability to portray movement, to capture the tense excitement and muscular vitality of the corrida, and this with an unerring sense of when to play with chiaroscuro effects, in the Baroque manner, to suggest the tragedy and cruelty that accompany the fateful encounter of man and beast.'
(A. Sanchez & J. Gallego, Goya: The Complete Etchings and Lithographs, New York, 1995.)
Bound in with the present set is a letter dated 14 July 1924 by José Sánchez Gérona, the by then retired director of the Escuela Nacional de Artes Graficas and of the Calcografia, Madrid, explaining that this was given by Goya to friend and banker Muguiro and that it originally consisted of 32 plates only, but was later completed with an impression plate 33 on a smaller sheet. He also notes that this set was recorded by Delteil. Unfortunately the addressee's name of this letter has been erased, but it seems that Sánchez Gérona was offering this set to a prospective buyer.
Delteil does indeed mention this set in his catalogue raisonné of Goya's printed works: 'M. S. Gerona possède un exemplaire exceptionnel de cette 1re édition, provenant de la famille Muguiro et qui formé au fur et à mesure, ne renfermait à l'origine que 32 planches; il fut complété par la suite'. He seems to imply that at the time the Muguiro family acquired the set, Goya had not yet completed the series. It now seems impossible to prove why the set lacked the final plate, but it is very rare to find sets of Goya prints which can be linked directly to the artist and the first owners, such as the present one. Juan Bautista Muguiro and Goya met during their exile in Bordeaux, there were family ties through marriage (the sister of Xavier Goya married into the Muguiro family), and in 1827, one year before his death, Goya painted a portrait of his friend Muguiro, which is now at the Prado in Madrid.
We are grateful to Juliet Wilson-Bareau, London, for her help in cataloguing this lot.