Leads Bonhams London Print Sale

An early 1st edition set of Francisco Goya's masterpiece, Los Desastres de la Guerra (Disasters of War), in its original binding leads Bonhams Prints and Multiples sale in London on Tuesday 18 December with an estimate of £70,000-100,000.

The 80 etchings, executed between 1810-1820, depict the horrors inflicted on the civilian population of Spain by the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte during the Peninsular War (1808-1814). They also stand as a wider testament to the artist's feelings about all war and its brutal consequences.

The Peninsular war ended in victory for the British army, commanded by Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington. But Napoleon was also beaten by the collective will of the Spanish population and the armed civilians – guerrillas – who rose up spontaneously against Napoleon's troops. Guerrilla ambushes carried out under cover of darkness inflicted severe damage on the French soldiers and their morale.

The response from Napoleon's army was to rain terror on the civilian population; mass executions without trials, imprisonments, rape and destruction followed by yet more savage reprisals. All of this – and the Spanish people's heroic acts of resistance – were graphically caught by Goya, who remained in Spain for the duration of the war. Only a few of the 80 plates are dated, however, and none were published in the artist's lifetime, so it is not possible to identify any specific events which Los Desastres may depict.

Bonhams Head of Prints and Multiples, Lucia Tro Santafe said, "Although Goya was not the first artist to depict war against civilians, his etchings are undoubtedly more dramatic and varied in narrative, more savagely beautiful, and more humanly moving than anything that came before – and arguably that has followed since. In Los Desastres Goya created pictorial journalism long before the camera was invented; art devoted to reportage. As he inscribed in Plate 44 Yo lo vi 'I saw it'.

Writing in the latest edition of Bonhams Magazine, the art critic for The Guardian Jonathan Jones said: "The apparent chaos of Goya's war has a terrible logic. The tit-for-tat atrocities deepen in their evil from heat-of-the-moment violence to more calculated cruelties. Sexual abuse by the French leads to reprisals. Finally, dead bodies are ported in a psychotic carnival."

The sale also offers a complete set of Goya's Los Proverbios (The Proverbs). The 18 etchings were completed between 1815-1819 but were not published until 1864, many years after the artist's death in 1828. It was then that they were given the title by which they are now known. Subsequent research, however, revealed that Goya himself had intended the series to be called Los Disparates (Follies). This is seen as more consistent with the mysterious scenes depicted by Goya, which are clearly not illustrating proverbs. The set is estimated at £30,000-50,000.

Francisco Jose de Goya Y Lucientes (1746-1828) was the greatest Spanish artist of the Romantic era. Appointed Court Painter by Charles IV in 1789, he enjoyed a highly successful career as a portrait painter, known for his refusal to flatter his subjects with idealized likenesses. In the early 1790s, Goya began to suffer from the ill health that plagued the rest of his life. He became deaf in one ear, and grew increasingly introspective. His work darkened in tone and he turned increasingly to printmaking which rapidly became the ideal medium through which to make his sharp moral, social and political observations. Goya withdrew from society during the last few years of his life and died in Bordeaux in 1828.

Link to article on Goya's Los Desastres and Los Proverbios by Jonathan Jones, art critic for The Guardian in the latest edition of Bonhams Magazine: https://www.bonhams.com/magazine/26799/

Other highlights include:

- Étude pour une corrida by Francis Bacon (1909-1992). Estimate: £30,000-50,000.
- The Nun, from Ingrid Bergman by Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987). Estimate: £30,000-50,000.
- Mao by Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987). Estimate: £20,000-30,000.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest and most renowned auctioneers, offering fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewelry. The main salerooms are in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with auctions also held in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Paris, San Francisco and Sydney. With a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 22 countries, Bonhams offers advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full list of forthcoming auctions, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit bonhams.com.


Related auctions