In the Tauromaquia, created and assembled between 1814 and 1816, Goya focused his attention on the drama of bullfighting. The series begins with illustrations of the origins and history of bullfighting and ends with the exploits of Goya's contemporaries. In the illustration we see the extraordinary acrobatic feats of Martincho, famous at the time for his daring stunts, one of which involved him vaulting from a table, his feet shackled, over a bull. Goya treats this event with his typically innovative style, relying less on etching and more on beautifully modulated aquatint to created 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, however, 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, Goya's 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 and J. Gallego. Goya: The Complete Etchings and Lithographs. New York, 1995,
To a certain extent, through the violent combat of man and beast, Goya transposes his feelings toward the Franco-Spanish War whose atrocities he had condemned so vividly in his Desastres de la guerra a few year before. Yet, Goya, in his 70th year at the time of the Tauromaquia's publication, had been an aficionado since his youth and in the series also manages to recapture his youthful vitality and love of life.