Containing fine, early impressions of all 80 aquatints, probably printed by Rafael Esteve for the artist and all pulled using light sepia ink, it is one of just 27 first issue sets from the original edition of 300 copies.
Though nowadays highly desirable, the prints did not sell as well as had been hoped at the time – perhaps because they were available only from the perfume and liquor shop above which Goya had his home.
In 1803 Goya presented the original copper plates and unsold sets to Charles IV’s Real Calcografia (now the Calcografia Nacional) in Madrid, from which sets were sold only very slowly over several decades.
It was not until 1855 that a second edition appeared, but 10 more were subsequently printed from the increasingly worn plates, right into the 20th century.
Though this bound set is signed and inscribed in French by Goya, the name of the original recipient has been erased.
Only slight traces remain, but there seems little doubt, said Christie’s, that recipient was Maria Josefa Pimental, Countess and Duchess of Benavente. Maria and her husband, the 9th Duke of Osuna, were patrons of the arts and both had their portraits painted by Goya.