Francisco Goya: The Four Books

Goya produced four major series of etchings in his lifetime. The first, Los Caprichos (Caprices), the artist finished and published as a rather ambitious book of 80 captioned allegories in 1799. He withdrew the prints from sale after only two days, however, perhaps after being threatened by the Inquisition—priests and other representatives of the Catholic Church are not portrayed very sympathetically in this series. Undeterred, Goya continued to experiment with etching and aquatinting techniques, and for his next sequence he turned to a more popular topic, one that surely would find an audience in Spain: a series on bullfighting, La Tauromaquia, 33 prints which he finished and put on sale in his shop in 1816. However, very few in war-weary Madrid found Goya’s unromantic depictions of the darker aspects of the bullfight appealing. Only a few sets sold. The horrors of the Napoleonic wars in Spain (1808-1813) compelled him to create his most disturbing and forceful series of prints, Los Desastres de la Guerra. He finished this extensive sequence of 80 plates, but given the current state of political and religious repression—and perhaps discouraged by the failure of La Tauromaquia—Goya did not even attempt to sell these violent and macabre prints. Instead he went on to work on a similarly dark and even more enigmatic series, the unfinished group of 18 etchings known variously as Los Disparates (Follies) or Los Proverbios (Proverbs), which he produced in his seventies while recovering from serious illness.

After his death in 1828, Goya’s reputation languished. Fortunately his son boxed up all of his copper plates. It wasn’t until the 1850s and 1860s that La Real Academia de Nobles Artes de San Fernando published all of the series using Goya’s original plates: Desastres de la Guerra and Los Disparates for the first time ever (aside from scattered artist proofs). Care was taken in producing these editions, and only a few hundred copies of each were run off so as not to damage the copperplates. The delicately shaded background areas Goya achieved through his mastery of aquatint (etching the plates with acid) and lavis (painting acid directly onto the plate) are particularly susceptible to degradation with subsequent printings. Thus it is especially important with these four books to obtain first edition copies—and even copies from early in the print run rather than later—whenever possible. The shading and ‘coloring’ Goya managed to obtain is indescribable, and must be seen in person to be fully appreciated, as even today’s refined photographic and digital printing technology cannot faithfully capture the subtle varieties of tone that contribute to the drama of these images.

Each of these books is incredibly hard to find in first edition. The Royal Academy of San Fernando only printed 300 copies of Los Disparates (Proverbios), and only 500 copies of Los Desastres de la Guerra; presumably the Academy printed an equally limited quantity of La Tauromaquia, which is virtually unobtainable in first edition. Of the first book published by Goya, Los Caprichos, only about 300 copies were printed, and it appears that the artist sold no more than 27 copies in the first four years of its publication. The opportunity to obtain all four works at once is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The National Gallery of Victoria, the oldest and largest public art gallery in Australia, took nearly 40 years (1945-1983) to assemble its complete set, as described in the book the museum produced to accompany its Goya print exhibit, Reason and Folly.




Extraordinary First Edition Of Los Caprichos, Complete With 80 Etchings—One Of The Earliest Copies, Without The Scratch On Plate 45, One Of Probably Fewer Than 30 Bound For Goya


GOYA Y LUCIENTES, Francisco José de. Los Caprichos. [Madrid, 1799]. Small folio (12 by 8 inches), contemporary full mottled brown calf gilt, red morocco spine label.

First edition, superb copy, of Goya’s rarest book, Los Caprichos, one of only a few copies sold in Madrid by Goya himself, and in its most desirable first state, without the scratch on plate 45, indicating it was one of the first copies printed.

Los Caprichos is Goya’s “satire on human folly and wickedness with particular reference to the customs and manners of his time” (Harris I, 102). He named the work after his desire to be able to indulge in his “caprices,” or wild imaginings, in a format different from that of the commissioned paintings he usually created. After Los Caprichos, the artist returned to this format repeatedly, as seen in his other great collections of etchings, Los Desastres de la Guerra and Tauromaquia. But it is in Los Caprichos, the only one of his great books of plates published during his lifetime, and supervised by himself from beginning to end, that one sees the most revolutionary aspects of Goya’s work. And it is only in this first edition that one can see the finest examples of his artistry, as later printings (the second edition was not published until 1855) are inferior in clarity and sharpness.

Los Caprichos is central to our conception of Goya… More than a series, Los Caprichos offers a kaleidoscopic view of evil, encompassing prostitutes, clergy, imagined witches and goblins. Never before had any artist presented such a complex group of images, which effortlessly slip from the mundane to the supernatural… Los Caprichos also marks a breakthrough in the art of printmaking. Up to this point, master printmakers had worked in engraving or etching, but the primary technical innovation of Los Caprichos lies in Goya’s use of aquatint. Briefly stated, the use of aquatint enables the artist to create a pattern of tone on the etched plate. If this tone is deeply bitten, it holds a great deal of ink. In the best early impressions (before the plate is worn down), these passages print as a rich velvety surface. Aquatint enabled Goya to project his figures against the dark void, to create a world of vice that is hidden from daylight and from normal perception” (Tomlinson, 123).

“Goya published his set of eighty satirical prints himself, and put them on sale in a shop below his apartment in 1799. He knew perfectly well that he was taking a risk in issuing these prints, since they mirrored the advanced opinions of his liberal friends… We know that he was threatened by the Inquisition” (Juliet Wilson Bareau). All told, Goya appears to have sold no more than 27 copies of the work in the four years following its release, out of about 300 copies printed. Most of the remainder (240 copies) of the first edition ended up being sold to King Charles IV four years later. One imperfection mars the beauty of Los Caprichos: early in the printing process, a scratch appeared on the face of a figure on plate 45. Only the very earliest, and therefore finest, copies printed (probably fewer than 30) lack the scratch. The scratch is absent in this copy. The first edition “is easily identified by the brilliance of the impressions and by the paper and ink used… A number of copies were bound for Goya in Spanish mottled calf with the title and the author’s name on the spine in gold letters on red or green. They are often before the scratch on Pl. 45 and are invariably particularly fine.” (Harris II, 63). The binding of this copy is consistent in appearance with the binding employed by Goya.

Of particular note in this copy is that bound in the back of it is a large manuscript leaf that explains the plates. Entitled “Satiras de Goya,” it has been copied from the painter’s own notes. Goya appears to have written these notes with the intention of publishing them, but, perhaps due to their controversial content, they were never published and exist only in manuscript form in several copies. Because Goya deliberately obscured the subversive meanings behind many of the plates, manuscript commentaries such as this are highly desirable as a means to understand Goya’s intentions, and rarely present. There are three primary versions of these manuscript commentaries, one located in the Prado Museum, one in the National Library of Madrid, and one originally from the Lopez de Ayala collection. The entirely handwritten manuscript bound into this volume differs slightly from the three manuscripts noted above.

This lovely volume of Los Caprichos is clearly one of the earliest copies printed, as demonstrated by the brilliant, vivid quality of the plates. This first edition was printed on beautiful laid paper, without watermark, and without a title page. Contemporary owner signature on margin of Plate I (a self-portrait of Goya), not affecting image. Some light wear and chipping to head and tail of spine; a small loss of paper to the margin of plate 22, not affecting image; a tear without loss to the manuscript table. A fine, lovely, first edition of Goya’s watershed book, of extraordinary rarity.

Extraordinary Rare 1855 Second Edition Of Goya’s Tauromaquia, Finely Printed From The Original Plates, With Original Paper Wrappers Bound In

GOYA Y LUCIENTES, Francisco José de. Colección de las diferentes suertes y actitudes del arte de lidiar los toros, inventadas y grabadas al agua fuerte por Goya [Tauromaquia]. Madrid, 1855. Thirty-three etched and aquatinted plates on heavy wove paper; original printed paper front wrapper with etched portrait of Goya and original printed paper rear wrapper with table of contents bound in appropriately. BOUND WITH: Eight etched and aquatinted plates (portrait of Goya and seven additional bullfighting scenes) on heavy laid paper with Arches watermark. [Paris, 1876]. Oblong folio, contemporary brown cloth boards with gilt lettering, expertly rebacked and recornered in calf, retaining the original stitching. Housed in custom half morocco clamshell box.

Rare second edition of Goya’s magisterial survey of the “fiesta nacional”—33 dramatic etched and aquatinted plates of bullfighting scenes in early impressions from the original plates etched by Goya. This copy bound with the seven additional plates published for the first time in the 1876 third edition.

While most of Goya’s prints were conceived as series, only two such series were released during his lifetime: Caprichos and this, Tauromaquia, and consequently these works best reflect Goya’s own organization. These are “Goya’s most technically finished etchings and show the mastery of subtle effects he had gained through his experiments in The Disasters of War” (Tomlinson, 222). Only 33 plates were included in the initial issue of the series in 1816, released with the title Treinta y tres estampas que representan diferentes suertes y actitudes del arte de lidiar los Toros. The very limited print run and the lack of commercial success make this first edition virtually impossible to find on the market today. A second edition—the present copy—was published in 1855 using the original copper plates, and a third was issued in Paris in 1876, with seven additional plates, under the title La Tauromachie.

This second edition copy contains the complete 33 plates that appeared in both the first and second editions, finely printed here in black (umber) ink on wove paper, with the original front and rear printed paper wrappers bound in (with Goya’s engraved self-portrait on the front wrapper and the list of plates on the rear wrapper). In the 40-year interval between the appearance of the first edition and the printing of the second, it was inevitable that a few of the copperplates would have deteriorated slightly, apparently owing to the oxidization of the copper. For the most part, however, the plates are finely printed, beautiful impressions, retaining all the subtlety of Goya’s original designs in which he carefully mixed the techniques of aquatint, lavis, drypoint and burin. These second edition impressions are clearly superior to the heavily inked images pulled by Loizelet in the third edition some 20 years later (seven of which are included in this copy, making for convenient comparison between the two editions).

At some point after the second edition the French engraver Loizelet bought the original Tauromaquia copperplates. Seven of the 33 plates had finished etchings on the reverse that Goya had made in preparation for the Tauromaquia but decided not to include as part of the final series. Loizelet was the first to publish these earlier designs, adding them to the original 33 in his edition printed in Paris in 1876, bringing the total number of images to 40. According to Harris, Loizelet lettered the seven “new” plates A-G, and he issued these seven plates both with new impressions of the original 33 and separately, presumably for those who already owned a copy of the first or second edition. The seven “new” plates included in this copy are unlettered, possibly indicating early impressions. Loizelet printed his edition in dark sepia ink on laid paper with the Arches watermark.

The title Goya gave to the series reflects an intention to depict different bullfighting maneuvers. However Goya also included within the etchings a history of bullfighting, from its origins in hunting by prehistoric Spaniards, until the choreographed encounters of the contemporary era. Despite the popular subject, these prints did not sell well during Goya’s lifetime. Stylistically they were revolutionary: “Compared with the normal stock of print dealers and bookshops… Goya’s etched and aquatinted plates must have appeared unpolished and incomprehensible. Goya’s prints have neither the naïve simplicity of Carnicero’s rather wooden scenes, nor the circumstantial detail and high finish expected of realistic, illustrative works. Each plate presents a dramatic moment in a particular encounter between a wild and dangerous bull and men whose emotions, or their proud control of them, are written on their faces or expressed in the turn and thrust of their bodies. The primitive intelligence of the ‘ancient Spaniards’, the supple grace of the Moors, the majestic appearance and courage of the plumed and armored Christian princes and noblemen, and finally the down-to-earth bravery and skill of the professional toreros of Goya’s time, all these are shown in a way which emphasizes the tension and drama of each contest… The infinitely varied character of the etched line and the subtle or dramatic use of aquatint tones convey the images in an impressionistic, even expressionist, form which must have been beyond the comprehension of the ordinary public and even of the more enlightened collectors” (Wilson-Bareau, 67-8).

Goya “developed a most striking independence of style, and with it attained a more typical expression of the sentiment of his country than any other artist, before or since… He still stands as one of the greatest virtuosi of an art which had only been introduced a few years before his work commenced… It is in these plates that Goya’s individual genius in the art of composition pure and simple can best be studied. Plates such as No. 16 (Martincho vuelca un toro) show a brilliance in concentration, a command of spacing, an unfailing grasp of the mysterious power of a veil of light and shade, that place them at once among the greatest triumphs of art” (Hind, A History of Engraving and Etching, 252, 256). Plates No. 20 (Ligereza y atrevimiento de Juanito Apiñani), No. 21 (Desgracias acaecidas en el tendido de la plaza de Madrid), and No. 31 (Banderillas de fuego) are the most famous and representative of the series. Harris II, 308. Occasional spotting to broad margins of plates. The images themselves are fine impressions, from the original copper plates, of Goya’s breathtaking survey of the dangerous art of bullfighting.

Goya’s Masterpiece Desastres De La Guerra: Extraordinary 1863 First Edition, One Of Only 500 Copies, Complete With 80 Original Etchings

GOYA Y LUCIENTES, Francisco José de. Los Desastres de la Guerra: Colección de ochenta láminas inventadas y grabadas al agua fuerte por Don Francisco Goya. Madrid, 1863. Two volumes. Total of 80 numbered and titled copperplate etchings done with drypoint, burin, aquatint and lavis, on wove paper with watermark J.G.O. and palmette. Oblong folio (13-1/2 by 9-3/4 inches; each image approximately 8 by 6 inches), contemporary half red morocco gilt.

First edition, second issue, of “the most brutally savage protest against cruelty and war which the visual imagination of man has conceived”—one of only 500 copies in the first printing. Fine, early impressions, with tonal variations in the lavis that disappear in later editions.

Napoleon’s invasion of Spain in 1807 and 1808 brought about the abdication of the Bourbon rulers and sparked violent protests against the French. The Madrid uprising of May 2, 1808, marked the start of the armed Spanish resistance, which dragged on in guerilla warfare until 1814. During the war years, Goya vented his horror and outrage at the atrocities committed by soldiers and compatriots alike: “In 80 small, compact images, each etched with acid on copper, Goya told the appalling truth. He aimed a high-power beam on hideous sights: guerillas shot at close range; the ragged remains of mutilated corpses; and the emaciated victims of war’s partner famine. Never before had a story of man’s inhumanity to man been so compellingly told, every episode reported with the utmost compassion, the human form described with such keen honesty and pitying respect” (Goya in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 25-26). “Nothing in art reflects with more terrible emphasis the horrors of war than Goya’s Desastres de la Guerra… As a satirist he may be misanthropic and bitter… but in the unflinching courage with which he probes right to the heart of social rottenness he proves himself the true satirist who battles with abuses” (Hind, History of Engraving and Etching, 255-56). “The novelty of Goya’s Desastres lies in its rejection of heroism, in its refusal to glorify, idealize or in any way justify the situation of its protagonists” (Tomlinson, Goya, 202). “These nightmare scenes, depicting atrocities committed by both French and Spanish, are the most brutally savage protest against cruelty and war which the visual imagination of man has conceived” (Oxford Dictionary of Art, 215).

The war tore at Goya’s several loyalties—as a liberal in favor of the expulsion of the conservative Bourbon rulers, as a patriot abhorring foreign rule, and as an established painter of the court in his 60’s hoping to retain his position. Aside from the proofs he made as he worked—of which fewer than 500 have survived to the present day—he made no other impressions of the Desastres prints during his lifetime. Not until 1863, 35 years after his death, was the first of seven posthumous editions of the Desastres published by Spain’s Royal Academy. (The second was not run off until 1892.)

Perhaps because Goya did not intend to see Desastres through publication, the series as a whole is somewhat less coherent than the two series of prints Goya issued while alive, Los Caprichos and Tauromaquia. Plates 2-47 depict scenes of war, possibly as witnessed by Goya during his travels to and from Zaragoza in 1808, but most likely from newspaper and other accounts; plates 48-64 record the famine that ravaged Madrid from 1811-12, done shortly thereafter; the remaining 16 images are more fantastic, politically satirical images, which have been variously dated, most likely from circa 1815-17. However, Goya did present to his friend Ceán Bermúdez an album containing working proofs of the 80 Desastres plates, united under the manuscript title ‘Fatal consequences of the bloody war in Spain with Bonaparte and other emphatic caprices.’ The Royal Academy’s 1863 edition was the first to unite these images into one series under the title Desastres de la Guerra, and the first to incorporate Goya’s handwritten captions, as taken from Bermúdez’s album.

As the subjects and themes evolved throughout the creation of Desastres, so did the artist’s approach, moving from a highly detailed style to a much less finished technique. “He developed a most striking independence of style, and with it attained to a more typical expression of the sentiment of his country than any other artist, before or since, not excluding Velázquez… Goya’s plates are almost entirely bitten, dry-point occasionally being used to strengthen the etched lines. He constantly uses the combination of an aquatint grain with his line, and he still stands as one of the greatest virtuosi of an art which had only been introduced a few years before his work commenced” (Hind, 252).

This work is most scarce and extremely difficult to obtain, as over the years copies have found their way to museums or to print dealers. This is a second-issue copy of the first printing, with corrections to the captions of plates 9, 32-36, 39 and 47. Harris Ib. A beautiful copy in fine condition with clean, sharp impressions.


Goya’s Extraordinary Proverbios: 1864 First Edition, One Of Only 300 Copies, Complete With 18 Original Etchings


GOYA Y LUCIENTES, Francisco José de. Los Proverbios. Madrid, 1864. Oblong folio (19 by 13 inches), 19th-century three-quarter straight-grain morocco, marbled boards and endpapers, top edge gilt. Housed in a custom clamshell box.

First edition of Goya’s allegorical series of 18 etchings with aquatint—one of only 300 copies in the first printing. “This edition is very well printed; the impressions are richly inked and tone is usually left on the highlights” (Harris).

Although none of the plates in the Proverbios have titles, it seems logical to suppose that Goya intended to title them as he had with the Caprichos and other sets of his engravings. “Research into the proverbs of his time has in fact revealed sayings which seem appropriate as titles for many of the Proverbios compositions, though it should be borne in mind that Goya very probably twisted the sayings by giving them some particular social, religious or political significance, which might well make them difficult to recognize” (Harris).

The 18 plates were not published during Goya’s lifetime, having been stored by his son after the artist’s death. The date of composition is debated but is generally accepted to be concurrent to, and after the completion of, the Tauromaquia series. Trial proofs were made by Roman Sarreta in 1854, although the images were exceptionally poor. The set presented here is from the first edition by Laurenciano Potenciano who had printed previously Goya’s masterpiece Desastres de la Guerra in 1863. “Impressions from the posthumous first edition of 1864 are very fine and are often superior to the weakly inked trial proofs of 1854” (Harris II, 434). There is no complete record of the plates in any of the working proof states, and no contemporary edition was made from the finished plates during Goya’s lifetime. Plates 8, 12, 16, 17 and 18 are not known in any contemporary impressions prior to this 1864 first edition. Lithograph title by J. Aragon and the complete set of 18 unnumbered etchings with aquatint on thick wove paper with the watermark ‘J.G.O.’ and a palmette device (partial palmette watermark visible on sheets 1, 3, 11, 17 and 18). Sheet size 326mm by 477mm. Harris II: 248-65. A fine copy of the scarce first edition.