GOYA Y LUCIENTES, Francisco (1746-1828). [Los Caprichos. Madrid: possibly printed by Rafael Esteve for the artist, 1799.]
Quarter broadsheets (296 x 199mm). 80 PLATES on a single uniform stock of unwatermarked laid paper: etchings with burnished aquatint, many with drypoint and/or burin. (Light damp-stain in the mostly blank lower outer corner of the first 14 leaves.)
BINDING: late-19th-century jansenist olive morocco, border of writing implements roll-tooled in gilt on the turn-ins, marbled endpapers, gilt edges, (slightly rubbed at extremities).
Provenance: Acquired from William H. Schab 1957.
FIRST EDITION, SHOWING VERY FINE EARLY IMPRESSIONS OF ALL THE AQUATINTS, OF THE EARLIEST IN THE SEQUENCE OF GOYA'S FOUR GREAT INTAGLIO SERIES. The prints were pulled in light sepia ink, here with deeply impressed plate-marks and full margins. The impression of aquatint pl. 45 shows no scratch on the face of the background figure, a characteristic of trial proof sets or an early issue of the first edition.
Many specific themes and allusions - satirical or not - in Goya's caprices, generally considered his finest work, have defied interpretation other than that they relate to society's follies. Goya's earliest prints, like Blake's, were hardly exceptional. Close in date, but geographically far apart and under quite different circumstances, both then began to experiment with intaglio techniques and publishing whole books of their engravings. Goya was far more commercially ambitious than his English contemporary. Harris estimated that he produced three hundred sets (i.e. 24,000 impressions) of the Caprichos, of which less than 10 were sold. He advertised them in the Madrid newspapers as being for sale in a perfume and liqueur shop, above which he lived. His now-famous self-portrait served as the frontispiece to the work. Having been rebound in fin-de-siécle Paris, at a time and place when appreciation of the Spanish master soared among French connoisseurs, this FINE AND COMPLETE SET shows no evidence of early provenance. Delteil 38-117; Harris I, pp. 7, 10, 62-63, 95-133, and II, pp. 62-158 and nos. 36-115. Fact and Fantasy 68.