Plate 21 of Francisco Goya’s “La Tauromaquia” depicts a tragic scene of fear and death in the bullfighting ring. This etching with burnished aquatint, drypoint, and burin on laid paper shows a collective fight against a terrifying enemy, resulting in fatal consequences. Created between spring 1814 and autumn 1816, during Goya’s first edition series dominated by tragic pathos reflecting the end of War of Independence and restoration of the throne.
Goya’s choice to focus on themes of fear, death, and tragedy was not uncommon for his time. Bullfighting was considered an action-packed spectacle that could bring out both the bravest and most impulsive instincts in people. It is often said that bullfighting serves as both an analogy for life filled with triumphs and tragedies- just like Plate 21 Desgracias Acaecidas en el Tendido de la Plaza de Madrid (Misfortunes Happened in the Stands at Madrid’s Plaza) suggests.
In this piece from “La Tauromaquia,” Goya masterfully captures the dramatic intensity of a moment when an opponent emerges into sight; he uses these scenes to address broader social issues such as political instability or social inequality. Thus, Plate 21 remains an important example of Goya’s artistry as well as his keen insight into human nature during uncertain times in Spain’s history – which has even solidified its place in contemporary society where artists like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” capture similar emotions visually to evoke certain emotions within audiences.