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Drawing : Goya’s Bullfight Series May 9, 2008

Posted by anagasto in art, bullfight, drawing, Spain.
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It is not a sport or a spectacle. The matador does not “win” the fight. It is a ritual culminating in the solemn execution of that wild animal. Hemingway spoke of “grace under pressure” : the matador has to stand still with the animal raging all around him.

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goya corrida 6

The matador has to tire the bull out. The bull has to lower his head and stand still to be killed. The dance and the play are only to prepare for the moment of truth, the kill, the moment of greatest danger. In his death the bull might throw up its head and wound the matador, in the past often deadly, until Fleming invented penicillin in 1940.

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Normally, in a corrida there are three matadors and six bulls. Each matador kills two bulls that have to be at least four years old. If there is no cheating, things often go wrong even now :

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Hemingway said that the bullfight made death look grotesque. Children often see it that way, even in war.

.goya bullfight series

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The drawing above is one of Goya’s best on the bullfight. He always had a way of making the bulls look like rats. Now, maybe because of photography, fighting bulls look less lively and more solemn and also heavier:

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These photos are from a good specialized site http://torear.blogspot.com/

Below is the death in 1815 of Pepe Illo, a legendary torero. A real aficionado (= fan or insider) would know the name of the bull that killed Pepe Illo. And even I know the name of the bull that killed Manolete:

It was Islero, of the famous Miura farm, and his death left Spain in a state of shock.  General Francisco Franco, then dictator of Spain, ordered three days of national mourning.

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Not just the bulls, but the bullfighters now look more solemn and much more arty than in Goya’s time, when there seems to have been more spontaneity and fooling around and less need for the aesthetics of a fight, but also less respect for the bull:

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This photo is from the same great blog at http://torear.blogspot.com/

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In the villages even now there are informal fights where everybody participates. There are no rules, every kind of  idiocy comes out in the open. Boys and men, often drunk, spend hours beating up a bull with sticks, shovels, motorcycles. The women look on for hours screaming and laughing and having great fun.

In Goya’s time, too, the bullfight seems to have been more of a collective entertainment:

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It has been suggested that the bullfight is of Arab origin. At least in Goya’s time there seem to have been Arab fighters:

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But the idea goes way back. This fresco is Greek:

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toros soria

Bulls can be herded like cows. They become aggressive only when isolated or kept away from the herd. Even at the ring, when a bull has a limp, he is led out by a cowboy and a few cows.

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Before the fight begins the matador often dedicates a bull to a famous individual who sits in the front row. The statue at the Madrid bullring is a matador who dedicates his bull to Sir Alexander Fleming:

monument-to-dr-fleming

It is wrong to think that now bulls are no longer dangerous.  Spain’s greatest bullfighter now is José Tomás. A bull gored him last year. He could not fight for more than a year. It was his  ninth hornwound and it was life-threatening.

Added 2 years later
This is the list the hornwounds=cornadas José Tomás has had up to now:

There are drawings on how it happened:
http://www.elpais.com/graficos/internacional/grave/cogida/Jose/Tomas/elpgraint/20100426elpepuint_1/Ges/

Added 4 years later:
Two weeks ago, José Tomás fought six bulls in the French city of Nimes. It was what you can see  once in a lifetime. He is Spain’s greatest matador now.

Here he is greeting the crowd. The ring was built by ancient Rome:

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Most famous of the past: Manolete and Joselito

Joselito’s death as reported in the New York Times:

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The drawings are thumbnails from

noguer rizzoli edition goya

Noguer-Rizzoli 1974 edition ; the photo of the bulls being herded just like cows is from the blog of Sanchez Dragó.

Tourists will mostly be disappointed because a perfect fight is rare. The chances are you see a lot of clowning or cruelty or bluff,  funny or shocking or both.

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roadside-bull1

This bull that is sometimes seen watching you from the side of a highway in Spain was originally an ad.  It stood for the Osborne wine manufacturers.

When those highway advertising boards were prohibited, Osborne’s bull was exempted because of it singular beauty. —

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To many Spaniards the bull is more important than the torero in a fight. They know his name, and if he is really brave, they will remember him many years later.

Spanish bull

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Before you condemn the fight, remember the great life he lives until he is called to the ring. Compare that to the cheapskate existence of cattle born and bred to be  slaughtered by machines.

If you were a bull, which life would you choose?

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Here is Forges’ view:

forges bullfightl

http://elpais.com/autor/antonio_fraguas_forges/a/

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Comments»

1. pendrive9 - October 27, 2008

Don’t you think it ought to be prohibited?

2. cantueso - November 8, 2008

If it were just a tourist industry, but I don’t think it is that way. The city Spaniards don’t care and don’t know, but I am not sure that they are a majority.

3. ricktipton - March 15, 2009

It is a cultural remnant that should be preserved! Society has removed too many of our cultural identities throughout the world.
When you come to America and observe the Native American Activities
most of them are only aproximations as the reality has been lost,thanks to the subversion of the tribe by the European conquerors.
My peoples language does not exist today.

4. The Confessions of a Peruvian Bullfighter - January 17, 2011

[…] Sun Also Rises, seduced by the violent application of ink and pigment in Francisco de Goya’s depictions of matches. Studying these works made me eager for a chance to attend a fight. In the stands, my […]


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