El Toreador

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Bullfighting, also known as tauromachia  is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France, India, and some Latin American countries (Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru) in which one or more bulls are baited, and then slaughtered in a bullring for sport and entertainment. Whereas the popularity of this sport has fallen in the past few hundred years, it is still regarded as a “fine art” by some (and a bloodsport by others). Per usual, traditional, culture, and sport are mired in controversy.

(Images: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 )

Whatever one’s stance on the activity may be, it still cannot be argued that the professional toreros (also called “matadors”) and the bullring has captured the imagination of many artists throughout the years. The colors, the speed, and the marvel of a show create a vignette in which humanity and mortality are often on display.  I have never been to a bullfight, nor do I really condone the practice – but in the end it is not my religions, culture, or history. So much of this world is based on attempting to understand the importance  and significance of another people’s past. Rather than a competitive sport, the bullfight is more of a ritual which is judged by aficionados (bullfighting fans) based on artistic flourishes and a man’s command of animal. Ernest Hemingway said of it in his 1932 non-fiction book Death in the Afternoon: “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honour.”

Edouard Manet , Mlle. Victorine in the Costume of a Matador, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1862 – (An early instance of cross dressing and “passing” in art, Manet purposely includes a pink sash and a reprint of Goya’s bull’s behind Victorine.)

SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 14, 2007, CONTEMPORARY ART, FRANCIS BACON, 1909-1992, STUDY FOR BULLFIGHT NO. 1, 2ND VERSION , signed, titled, and dated 1969 on the reverse , oil on canvas , 78¾ x 58? in. 200 x 147.7 cm.

VILLEGAS CORDERO, José (Sevilla, 1844 – Madrid, 1921), La muerte del maestro, Óleo sobre Lienzo, 330 x 505 cm., h. 1884, Image via Museo Bellas Artes de Sevilla

“Bullfight #5” by Salvador Dali
P.P. Konchalovsky, Bullfight. 1910

 Pablo Picasso, Bullfight, the death of the torero (Course de taureaux – la mort du torero)

Rene Daniels, Painting on the Bullfight, 1985, Photo by Peter Cox, Image found HERE (The colors and quickness of the bullfight reduced to abstraction!)

Jacqueline Kennedy, her hostess the Duchess of Alba, and the Countess of Romanones attend a bullfight in Seville, 1966, Image found HERE.

Magazine: Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, Issue: March 2012, Editorial: Before Night Falls, Model: Wang Xiao |Wilhelmina|, Stylist: Kenneth Goh |United Management|, Photographer: Simon Upton, Image found HERE.

Kiss of the Matador, Vogue Japan, Image found HERE.

Oscar de la Renta is inspired by Cubism and Matadors in this collection, found HERE. 

Emilio Pucci 2012 matador skirt, HERE.

Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice. The killing of the sacred bull was a central iconic act of Mithras, which was commemorated in the mithraeum wherever Roman soldiers were stationed. There are even cave paintings depicting man fighting and killing bulls in Spain. It is thought that romans first popularized the sport of bullfighting as a sort of circus act in the stadiums. Often animals would be placed in the ring alongside gladiators. The footwork, rules, pomp, and circumstance of each fight greatly change based on geography and culture (e.g. Mexican bullfights greatly differ from Portuguese, Oman – Arabic, and Indian style – Jallikattu bullfighting).

Image of Emily and Andrew De Stefano’s home via DesignSponge, HERE. 

Image of Erin Austen Abbott and Sean Kirkpatrick’s home via DesignSponge, HERE. (All thrift store finds in this photo. Mississippi is not short of places to find deals.)

Painting by Anthony Fry, Image found HERE.

The matador photograph becomes the central focus and color scheme of this room, found HERE.

 Sylvie Rochon’s colourful Mid Century Modern home complete with a matador pillow! Image found HERE.


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About Keren

My name is Keren. I was once a pigeon in Paris, pecking at street cheese, and dreaming of anthropomorphism.

6 responses »

  1. I’m in love with your blog. You write the best posts, Keren (and educational, too!) 🙂

    • Thank you so much! Compliments like these keep me going! Please share and forward the blog with friends! Best – K.

  2. this post is absolutely brilliant! xo

    • Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for stopping by. If you ever want to collaborate on posts, or even visit NYC, feel free to contact me! I have been following your blog for a while and even feel a bit starstruck that you’ve stopped by to compliment me! Feel free to spread my posts with friends (I am trying to get bit more of a following, fingers crossed!). Best – KV

  3. Commendable post!Lovely colors…Althought i do agree that it’s quite painful to see poor bulls bleed to death.It is a custom so i don’t wanna offend anybody,but this custom needs serious re-considerations…

    • Yes, many organization exist in Spain and all around Europe that are against the torture of bulls. A place in Japan has gone as far as reenacting an entire bullfight with men dressed as the bulls – making the fight a puppet show and entertainment event rather than its bloody counterpart. According to PETA, Barcelona has actually declared itself an anti-bullfighting city. I would say that THAT is a step in the right direction. 😉


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