Gallery of prints for sale

Sunday 11 June 2017

Goya’s self-portrait restored with paint made from crushed hornet

Francisco de Goya (aka Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes; Francisco Goya) (1746–1828)
“Franco. Goya y Lucientes, pintor”, 1799, from the second edition published in c.1855, Plate 1 (Frontispiece) in the series “Caprichos.”

Etching, aquatint, drypoint and burin on wove paper, trimmed within the platemark and restored with paint made from a crushed hornet. The sheet is laid upon a support sheet of heavy wove paper (Dutch Etch).
Size: (support sheet) 33 x 26.6 cm; (sheet) 19.1 x 14.7 cm; (image borderline) 13.7 x 11.3 cm  

Lettered (with losses) outside the image borderline with title and plate number.
Harris 1964 36.III.2 (Tomás Harris 1964, “Goya: Engravings and Lithographs”, 2 vols (2nd for catalogue raisonné), Oxford, Bruno Cassirer); Delteil 38 (Loys Delteil 1902, “Le Peintre-Graveur Illustré (XIXe et XXe siècles)”, 31 vols, Paris)

Condition: Poor condition with many loses and alterations (i.e. document only quality), trimmed with margins around the image borderline but within the platemark. The print has been “restored” with a cream-coloured paint made from a crushed hornet and the sheet is glued onto a heavy support sheet.

I am selling this “document only” quality print (i.e. many of its intrinsic features have been altered) now restored with non-traditional paint for AU$330 (currently US$248.28/EUR222.45/GBP195.33 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this “restored” impression of one of Goya’s most famous prints with many significant alterations, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This is one of Goya’s most famous prints. This is partly because it is a self-portrait and also because it served as the frontispiece for his highly celebrated series the “Caprichos.”

What I love about this self-portrait is that Goya has intentionally chosen a profile pose following the long tradition of profile portraits that one sees on antique coins, medals and more recently, postage stamps. Although this tradition would normally help to imbue the sitter with an aura dignity and importance, in the case of Goya’s profile portrait the aim is different. Goya’s sullen expression of disdain and his quizzically peering eye when taken in the context of the prints that follow in the series—what Eleanor A Sayre (1974) in “The Changing Image: Prints by Francisco Goya” describes as “the insane behaviour of … humanity” (p. 63)—suggests that Goya perceived a note of irony in his self-portrait. By this I mean that Goya wishes his portrait to show that he has separated himself from the images of folly that follow in the series and has cast himself in the role of an objective commentator on the crazy world around him.

In keeping with the theme of irony, this late impression of the print was once in a shocking state of damage with its surface so eaten by insects that it resembled the surface of the moon. In short, the print was in such a poor condition that I thought that it was ready for the bin. That was, until I decided to lovingly restore it using a crushed hornet as paint pigment. I imagine that there may be many folk who would be disappointed with the choice of medium for the restoration of this print—some may even be angry with my decision—as it does lean to being disrespectful of a great artist’s work. Nevertheless, I imagine that if Goya were still around he would not be highly offended and might even see my solution to making his image beautiful once again as more than appropriate for a satirical folio of images.

Technique for making hornet paint used in restoring the Goya self-portrait:
1. Find the carcass of a dead and dried out hornet
2. Crush the hornet in a mortar and pestle—I fragmented the hornet in a blender as well
3. Cover the ground hornet with Coca-Cola and leave for a day (or two) to dissolve
4. Add Ethanol to the Coca-Cola and hornet syrup to kill any potential bacteria
5. Allow the liquid to evaporate leaving the hornet to become dust
6. Choose a suitable medium to use the hornet dust as a paint pigment
(I chose an acrylic medium to mix with my hornet dust but egg tempera or a glue medium would have been fine.)

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