Four bidders drove the hammer price to £420,000 (estimate £300,000-500,000). The 33 bullfighting prints are virtually flawless examples of the first and only contemporary edition of this series. They were printed on handmade paper, from large copperplates etched and aquatinted by Goya in 1815-16.
The uncut sheets were recently found in a French ducal library when heirs of the original owner Anne Adrien Duc de Montmorency Laval (1768-1837) – a French ambassador at the court of Madrid during the early 19th century – were inspecting the family property, and pulled a large nondescript volume from the back of a library shelf.
The album was inscribed with the name and Paris address of Athanase de Lévis, Marquis de Mirepoix, who married Laval’s daughter and inherited all the family titles.
Sotheby’s head of prints Séverine Nackers said “to find a complete set of Goya’s bullfighting prints with such historically significant provenance is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery”.