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 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 Los Desastres de la Guerra only shortly 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.