1797. Pen, Ferrogalic ink on verjured paper, 299 x 209 mm. Un exposed

Letter from a group of friends to Martín Zapater (1746-1803), drafted by Goya, with expression of gratitude for his invitation to drink, food and a balcony in the Plaza Mayor of Madrid, on the occasion of being awarded in the draws of the Real Empréstito.

This letter, which was dated from the news given in it at Christmas 1797, is one of the last preserved of the important correspondence between Goya and his childhood friend, the Zaragozan merchant Martín Zapater (1747-1803). Two others, in 1798 and 1799, culminated more than 30 years of personal news and comments of the greatest interest, although not many related to art, that revealed the most personal, intimate, spontaneous and warm facet of the artist.

On 24 November 1797 Martín Zapater won 6,000 reais in the prize draw to the holders of Real Empréstito shares; Luck was joined by Goya on the 28th, receiving 1,000 reais, and again, on December 9, Zapater was graceful again, with 1,500 reais, and Goya once again, on the 12th, won another 1,000 reais. Zapater, who had received a remarkable prize, 7,500 reais in total, quantity not inconsiderable, sent wine and delicacies from his land to his Zaragozan friends, residing in Madrid, and rented for them a balcony in the Plaza Mayor, to attend the bulls. Goya evidently set up his house, and among all they wrote the letter, which is by the artist’s hand, though parodying the affected spelling of the official writings and their formulas of expression and courtesy. The official formality of the writing clashes with the fun of its content and the directness of one of his drawings, and thus gives it a deeply ironic and transgressive tone, dating back even to Spanish literature from Quixote or picaresca novel to Quevedo, as early as the seventeenth century, and to some of the artist’s contemporaries, such as the Moratíns , father and son. They did not mention, however, in their letter that Goya had also won two awards, although the news was known to all, having been published in the Madrid Gazette, and that lack of comments on it was surely due to the chivalry of this group of friends, and Goya in particular, who wanted to please Zapater from the heart and thank him for his generosity and «the delicacy skies , delicate wines, and we soften spirits, with which in order suia we have celebrated the congratulations, with which luck has favored its intoxicable bliss and fortu[…]ne and a message from the same Lord who has given the convite, the Balcon has foreorceived us over the village so that we may have fun, and rest from the fatigues of speed.» Goya, in any case, he also began this letter, drafted as an ex officio, with the usual cross with which he began his correspondence, followed here by the bombastic heading, which has a resabio of formulas of courtesy to the Italian, already more bombastic than the Spanish ones, even in the use of the double that with which he wrote several words: «Poderosissimo, generosissimo, and splendiendiimo S.or D.n Martin Zapater» , which contrasts with the funny phrases in which he referred to him below as «… a filthy… a Caribbean like V.M…».

The paragraph of greatest interest is undoubtedly the one that describes, with multiple onomatopoeic words and own cacophonies, the joy and noise of the feast with its toasts, which reveal Goya’s gifts for the vivid description of a scene, also literaryally and not only with the brushes: «… we have exalted ourselves to such an extent that joy has almost gone on to be immoderate, what a toast! that repetition of bottles! that cafes plus coffee! what bottles! that drinks through the air! there is nothing more to say, but the glass of the House has been renamed and to all these you could only hear the joyful voices of, alive Zapater, what an excellent man, what a good Friend: alive, and more lived…». The letter finally bears the signatures and congratulations of all those present, Zaragozanos, who have been identified for the most part. Among them is that of the artist, who was humorously signed as «Fran.co of your Glories or Of Goya». The men signed on the main sheet, but the two women of those present, who also sign it, had to do so on the back of it, on the last page. The first, Nicolasa Lázaro, who also opted to praise the meatloaf or eggs that had touched her: «with her tortada like a car wheel», perhaps described in the scratch, oval in shape, under that signature, later integrated, as regret, in the drawing of the female profile figure. The hairstyle of this, of classic suggestion, and the light dress, bare the shoulder and the right arm, define it as an allegory to use. He also holds a wind musical instrument, a trumpet, as if Goya, to whose hand this drawing is to be attributed, had wanted to close the letter with a quick figure of Fame, who has that attribute, and who seems to fly to propagate the virtues of his friend. Below this final drawing, which already seemed to close the letter, is where Josefa Bayeu stamped his signature, the last one, perhaps because the service of the house, which must have been complicated according to the description of the party, could have taken her away when the others signed. He appreciated, like the other woman, the food sent by Zapater, that «rich dengila cake», which was surely his favorite delicacy.

There was still a blank space under Josefa’s signature, and that’s where Goya added one more drawing, which completed with a dose of thick humor the funny toasts of his friends and the ironic tone of the missive. On a paper glued to that of the letter, of different invoice, thinner, and torn quickly as of a small sheet notebook, because it has the edge on one side and on the other it seems to have been broken by the area of the sewn, with Chinese ink, different from that of the rest, Goya drew, pen and brush, that is, with care , a figure with his back, on all fours on the ground and ostentatiously showing off his bare ass. She has always been seen as a figure of a woman, but she is actually male, because of the muscular shapes of the buttocks, the straight thighs and, above all, the sex that is well appreciated between the legs. Also the hairstyle indicates it, according to the fashion of the village of the late eighteenth century, with the hair collected in the back as with net, or his attire, with the white shirt raised on the back and his underpants, described quickly in the horizontal line that crosses the thighs, as well as in the large and strong shoes. Zapater, the only viewer of the letter, must have understood the meaning of his friends’ joke, whether he referred, for example, to the twilight of Francisco de Quevedo, we do not know if he was well known then, of Thanks and misfortunes of the eye of the ass. It was a period when Goya had been especially interested in the Spanish writer, whose Dreams inspired his Caprichos. This traditional gesture of contempt since antiquity, described as early as the 1st century(d). C. by Flavius Josephus, which means showing the naked ass to others, would be here softened and turned into a joke, rude, but joking, by the friendship that bound them all, thus telling Zapater, surely, that they did not care about his riches. It is, however, a disturbing message, the ambiguity of which increases by the realistic fixation of the eye in which Goya turned the hole of the anus here. He had already used those watchful eyes on letters before his friend, such as the one dated March 1784, in which the drawing illustrating it, a bacon with a central eye, an arm, a hand, a razor, a jug, etc., present eyes that look directly at the viewer. In the eighteenth century, for example, among the games described in France, of which there is also news in Germany, was the so-called «Jeu de commerce», a kind of «game of garments» in which whoever had the highest cards, that is, the one who won, could pull down the pants of the other players. Maybe that was the message Goya and his friends sent to Zapater, winner of the lottery, who could do with them whatever he wanted.

Source and Copyright of the image ©Museo Nacional del Prado