"Lance de capa en un encierro", new painting by Goya in the Maestranza
At the beginning of 1794 Goya sent a collection of eleven cabinet paintings to the Academy of Saint Ferdinand in Madrid; all had been painted on tin sheets and were similar in size. The artist wanted to show his teachers that he had fully recovered his faculties after his serious - near fatal illness which had left him completely deaf; his aim was to continue in his position as painter to the King.

Along with the paintings Goya sent a personal letter addressed to don Bernardo de Iriarte, vice-protector of the Academy, in which he explained that he had painted the works not only in order to try to recover some of the enormous medical expenses he had incurred but also to find a focus for his artistic spirit which had followed its own caprice and invention in the selection of the subjects for the paintings and in the method of execution; and this to such an extent that the artist had enjoyed a creative freedom rarely felt when working on commissioned pieces.

Sevillian bullfighter

The Academy's records show that the paintings sent in by Goya portrayed various themes from national life: travelling theatre, puppet-sellers, and, above all, scenes from the bullfight. Eight of the the eleven have the bullfight as their theme, five of which are in permanent bullrings and three in outdoor spaces - the outskirts of Zaragoza, a country estate, a bull ranch. The paintings are now dispersed among museums and collections in Spain and abroad.

The picture displayed here shows a scene before the bullfight begins, when the bulls are being corralled into their individual pens directly from the bullring - as is still done today during the fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona. All the bulls in the group are "colorados", a reddish brown colour as opposed to the more usual black and are being guided by a "picador", together with his assistant holding a hemp rope ("guindaleta"). In the foreground we see a capes-man ("capeador") who wields his cape behind his back. Judging from the quality of his clothing it is likely that he is a fully-fledged bullfighter ("matador"). We know that José Delgado ("Pepe-Illo") claimed categorically that he had invented this particular manoeuvre with the cape so it is possible that Goya has actually given us a portrait of the famous Sevillian bullfighter in action.

"Lance de capa en un encierro" 1793 Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828) Oil painting on tin, 43 x 31 cm.

"Goya explained that he had painted the works to find a focus for his artistic spirit"

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