The Menéndez Pelayo Library of Santander has found a first edition of ‘Whims’ by Goya, formed by an album with 80 prints in reddish tones preserved in a “excellent condition“It has been found during the course of preparing an exhibition on Goya, which will be held in the coming months in collaboration with the Oviedo Museum of Fine Arts.
The Library has already entered the copy in the Collective Catalog of Bibliographic Heritage, which is the database of the Ministry of Culture. The person in charge of this library -which was the home of Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo-, Paz Delgado, explained that the album is made up of 80 prints on laid paper, with different printing techniques: etching, aquatint, drypoint and burin. The title of each stamp is engraved in the lower margin, and the number in the upper right corner. “The imprint of the plate and the stamping in reddish tones are characteristic of the first edition of 1799, the description of which appears in the National Library“, has added.
In order to contextualize the work, Delgado explained that by 1780 Goya was related to some of the most important intellectuals in the country, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, Juan Meléndez Valdés, Leandro Fernández de Moratín, or Juan Agustín Ceán Bermúdez, with whom he shared the ideals of the Enlightenment. He was aware of the defects of Spanish society, therefore contrary to religious fanaticism, superstitions and the Inquisition. All this appears criticized in a satirical way in these platess, where fantastic engravings appear with delusional visions, strange beings, and exaggeratedly deformed physiognomies.
The copy that is in the Library of Menéndez Pelayo “is bound in Spanish pastea with the title handwritten on a paper banner stuck to the spine, and its state of preservation is excellent, except for a small deterioration in the binding. “The endorsement sheets are made of stamped paper and can be read against the light:” For Poor solemnity quatro mrs./Sello quarto, Year of one thousand / eight hundred and nine “, which helps to date the copy. In addition, it has an ink seal booklet in the first print where the portrait of Goya is found in the It contains: “Modesto del Valle / 0,143 / Madrid.” It also has remains of another bookplate in stamp No. 80 that was pasted and has been removed in which it can be read: “Antonio”.
“We do not know with certainty who its owner was, and it will be a matter to study”, has pointed out Delgado, who adds that the data coincide with Antonio Modesto del Valle y Castillo (1788-1863), a Spanish military man born in Cuba and sent to Spain to study a military career, where he took part in the Spanish War of Independence.
History of engravings
The series of etchings of Los caprichos was published and put on sale for the first time in 1799, according to a receipt from the Osuna Archive, in which it appears that 4 series were paid to him. On February 6, 1799, the sale of the Collection was announced in the Diario de Madrid, putting 300 copies on sale in the perfumery on Calle Desengaño nº 1, the same building where the painter lived. The fall of the power of Godoy and the absence of the enlightened in the Government precipitated the events, and Goya urgently withdrew the edition for fear of the Inquisition, so they were only on sale for 14 days. In 1803, in order to save Los caprichos, Goya offered the available plates and series to the King for the National Calcography, in exchange for a lifetime pension for his son of twelve thousand reales per year. It is possible that the painter kept some series that he later sold in Cádiz during the War of Independence, between 1809-1812. There are discrepancies among experts in the number of editions of the Caprichos, but about twenty editions are estimated.