While Eugenio Lucas Velazquez's formal training as an artist is
vague, he is known to have spent considerable time copying the
works of Velazquez and Goya at the Prado. So close, in fact, was
Lucas's mastery of Goya's technique that many of his works were
incorrectly attributed to the latter. Painted in the 1850s and
early 1860s, Lucas's bullfighting scenes are his most celebrated
works and are extremely rare.
Sangre en la Fiesta and Varilargueros acosando al Toro
draw their inspiration from a series of paintings and etchings by
Goya, who had been an ardent aficionado of bullfighting and had
frequently used the subject in his oeuvre. (In a tapestry cartoon
of 1779 he even went as far as to depict himself as a toreador).
Goya's first series of bullfighting and matador paintings date from
1793, and he produced etchings of the subject until the end of
his life. Many of these scenes were taken from fights he
observed at the "plaza de toros" in Madrid. Widely praised for
their "flare for the fierce, dramatic quality of the action" (P.
Gassier, Francisco Goya, New York, 1971, p. 227), Goya's
pictures served as perfect models for Lucas.
Lucas's bullfighting pictures pay similar attention to the accurate
description of the different stages and passes involved with the
bullfight, while capturing the excitement of the event with bold
color and brushwork. Varilargueros acosando al toro most
closely compares with Goya's etching El barilarquero Fernando
del Toro (fig. 1); however Lucas has reinterpreted the scene to
fit his personal artistic vision, reversing the composition and
placing the figure of the matador on the left. There also exists
another painting inspired by Goya's etching in the collection of
The Hispanic Society of America (fig. 2) but it is less
developed, and more loosely painted. José Manuel Arnaiz writes
of Sangre en la fiesta and Varilargueros acosando al
toro: "the bravura of his brushwork, the imaginative use of
color, the sense of dizzying motion, are all good evidence of the
magnificent quality of this pair of paintings."
Bullfighting had its origins in Moorish tradition, and was
probably introduced to Andalusia during their occupation of the
region. Early bullfights are recorded as having taken place in
the ruins of Roman amphitheaters. After the Moors were driven
from Spain by Ferdinand II at the end of the twelfth century, the
sport became a favorite of the aristocracy, whose method was to
fight on horseback with a lance or "rejoncillo" (short spear).
By the end of the 17th century the aristocracy opened the sport
to professional "subordinates," and the character of the
bullfight took on the aspect of a theatrical spectacle complete
with bright costumes. The matadores, banderilleros, picadores
(master horsemen) and espadas (swordsmen) all had set roles
within the fight which was divided into three parts, and the
lineage of the bull was also considered an important factor.
These men were highly regarded for their talents in the ring and
trained at professional schools with only the most prestigious
fighting at the celebrated "plaza de toros" in Madrid.
These paintings have been authenticated by Jose Manuel Arnaiz and
will be sold with a photocertificate (no. 95/448).