This page is taken from La Divisa 139. It is reproduced by the kind permission of the author, Jock Richardson, and the Editor of La Divisa, the same Jock Richardson.
as Art a Personal View
[Some members will see ideas herein which were voiced in the discussion of the art of toreo which has recently taken place on the Mundo Taurino Website. Lest I be accused of plagiarism, I must point out that this article was written for La Divisa No 138 before Christmas 2000 and therefore before the discussion on the Mundo Taurino Website started. It did not appear in the January edition of La Divisa because there was insufficient space for it. Tristan Wood, to whom I owe thanks for reading the text, suggesting some changes in presentation and pointing out where amplification was necessary will vouch for the fact that the material in it is, indeed, a personal view written last year.]
There is a sense in which this is not a personal view at all. All aficionados must, in part at least, build their knowledge of and perspectives on toreo from what they have been told by others or have read in books and magazines. On the other hand, what we glean from others is inevitably selected, filtered, meditated upon, and re-ordered before we begin to think of it as our own. Moreover, since there is no clear concept of what constitutes art, since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, any view on the subject of toreo as art is bound to be largely a personal one.
I think that I have scarcely an original idea in my head about toreo. My perspective is a jig-saw puzzle put together from reading, conversation and observation. It has many rough edges and some of the pieces are missing. As I have often declared, it is mainly built on the great tauromaquias (save that of Guerrita which I do not yet own) and the taurine writings of Amós Salvador y Rodrigáñez, Luis Bollaín, Gregorio Corrochano and José Antonio del Moral. These aficionados who are, or have been, my friends, many of them, have added a good deal and my work as the editor of La Divisa has helped also. This is not to say that my sources are the only ones available or the best ones. They are just the ones I have found most convincing.
To define art is not easy. Still, most art forms have terms by which they may be analyses and discussed. They all have some kind of content and form; most have meaning. The poetry critic has his rhyme, rhythm, tone; imagery; mood; alliteration; assonance; etcetera. The critic of prose has his theme; plot; characterisation; narrative style; point of view; etcetera. The critic of painting may refer to medium; composition; perspective; colour; texture; brushwork; etcetera. One could go on.
Toreo has its critical terms also: parar; templar; cargar la suerte; mandar; etcetera. And toreo is often discussed using these terms. I have never found, however, an explanation of how toreo performed according to these terms is artthe relationship between the critical terms and the aesthetic and emotional response the art form elicits from the observer, if you like. This has always been a stumbling block for me. While I have been confident that I know what I respond to in toreo, even that I would be able to explain that response if asked, I have never been clear that there was a relationship between the response and the existing critical terms with which toreo is discussed. Why is toreo performed with parar, templar, cargar la suerte, etcetera, art while toreo without those elements is not?
When I started to write this essay, I had hoped to work from a response towards a discussion of the kind of toreo that elicits it without reference to that collection of terms often called los canones: I soon found that to be impossible. Like it or not, one is driven back to them constantly as one contemplates toreo as art. Perhaps it will not in the end cloud the issue.
Before proceeding, it might prove helpful to consider what toreo is.
The straightforward definitions of the dictionaries tend to a recognition that toreo embraces everything that happens between man and bull in the bullring from the moment the animal enters the arena until it falls dead. Accepting this, it must be acknowledged that lidia and bregaactions which often are not, need not be, artisticare elements of toreo and therefor reinforce the conclusion that all of toreo is not art.
I had lunch with José Antonio Del Moral one day in Vitoria when he was preparing his book, Cómo ver una corrida de toros. He explained that it was not being written for experienced aficionados like me, but for those unversed in the intricacies of the corrida: it was not to be a tauromaquia. That was pure exaggeration in respect of myself and pure modesty in respect of his book. It is a tauromaquia all right and one from which there is a huge amount to be learned. He defines toreo as follows. [All errors in this and other translations in this essay are, of course, my fault, and I apologise for them now.]
"In its most simple and general sense, torear is to incite a bull to charge and to avoid being caught by it when it does so. But this definition is incomplete in the light of the evolution of toreo over the centuries. In the beginning, toreo consisted of fighting with the bull trying by whatever means possible to kill it without being wounded in the attempt. But that which started off as a mere defensive exercise without advantages for the opponents went, little by little, towards perfection, towards what is understood by suertes (manoeuvres): each one of the acts that the toreros carry out in the playing of a bull.
The lidia and its ordering having been imposed, each one of the suertes was transformed from its simple rudiments to the progressive beauty of forms with which it is now brought to a conclusion. Thus, the lidia ceased to be crude preparation of the bull for its death and passed towards being another class of lidia in the sense that it became increasingly impregnated with greater aesthetic in each one of its acts till they became converted into artistic creations in themselves, without renouncing its more primitive and ultimate purpose: the domination and death of the bull."
Del Moral continues with a brief discussion of the tauromaquias and then makes a further point which is, in my opinion, highly relevant to any discussion of toreo as art.
"All the manoeuvres have their fixed rules by which the toreros conduct themselves with greater security, independently of their aesthetic result. Informed spectators ought also to know these rules in order to evaluate the merit or demerit of the lidiadores and so that they themselves are not alone in their perspectives of toreo.
This symbiosis of requirements and the selection of the toro bravo have led tauromaquia to levels of unthought-of perfection. Each time toreo is performed it is better performed. Consequently, the definition of toreo has been continuously amplified with new technical and artistic factors. With Belmonte it was started to "parar", "mandar", and "templar" the charges of the bulls. The "cargar" las suertes (to lengthen them, to extend them as far as possible throwing the weight of the body on to the leg marking the exit of the bulls charge) and "ligarlas" (to sew some pases/manoeuvres together with others) were spoken of. Now more things are spoken of and toreo has very many nuances such as the distance the torero ought to allow in the cite in accordance with what is appropriate to each bull; or the situation of the matador in the cite, "cruzado" in the route of the bull or "fuera de cacho" (at the side of the natural path of the bull and for that less risky); or the place, at which the lures ought to be taken hold of in each case; or the ideal height at which to present the lure, high or low, in accordance with where the bull uses its head, high or low; or as a function of its speed and strength. Each bull has it positioning, its distance, its height, its velocity, its rhythm. . . In discovering them and adjusting to them depends the category and the quality of toreo."
For me, del Moral succinctly and convincingly makes several vitally important points here: the primitive and ultimate purpose of toreo is the domination and death of the bull; toreo embraces a lidia which has developed from crude practicality to a means of artistic expression; by implication not all toreo is artistic; all the manoeuvres have fixed rules by which toreros can achieve security and by which aficionados can evaluate the merit or demerit of the toreros work; fixed rules are necessary to enable informed spectators to share their appreciation of toreo. He spells out the fundamental rules in a statement so recent (1994) that we may apply them today; he reminds us that the nature of the bull is of fundamental importance in determining the actions of the torero.
There is an aspect of toreo which may be included as an aspect of the fundamental rules not yet touched upon but which, in my opinion, is vitally important: the three stages of the lance or pase. Amós Salvador y Rodrigáñez deals with them nicely in his Teoría del Toreo, speaking of the lance.
"With what I have said up until now we have enough to define in a general manner the method of executing all the lances of toreo which are realised with the intervention of a lure. In all of them there can and ought to be distinguished, so that they are classical and accommodated to the good principles of the art of torear, three distinct stages which correspond to three operations and propositions which cannot fail in any properly completed suerte, that is to say, citar, cargar la suerte y rematarla.
Assuming that the torero is in the embroque and squared. [I take the word embroque here to mean directly in front of the toro] as is necessary for every lance, the first necessity is to fix the attention of the bull and oblige it to enter into the manoeuvre, which is called citar, given that, according to the fundamental principle [that the toro bravo will charge the object or body nearest to it and that which moves in preference to that which is stationary] the bull will go for the nearest mobile object; yet with the bulls movement scarcely initiated he is inevitably forced to get it away from his body, throwing it outwards and signalling a terrain and an exit for it and this being achieved it will be necessary for him to rematarla, which consists in leaving it at a convenient distance, withdrawing the lure and turning himself to the most appropriate position to cover his body and prepare himself for another lance.
When the three stages which I have just described are neither signalled nor observed in every class of lance, the manoeuvre is badly done and ends up being neither effective, elegant nor classical."
Those fortunate enough to have seen video taken of corridas at around the beginning of the century will have detected that they show very few, if any, pases or lances carried out as Salvador y Rodrigáñez describes. In his day the torero did stand in front of the bull when citing, but used the cloth essentially as a defence, placing it between the toro and his body and using it to move the incoming bull out and away from him. Whether Salvador y Rodrigáñez saw pases or lances in which the three stages were performed as they are today with the torero bringing the bull round the body to a convenient place to cite for the next, linked, pasethe video available now of early 20th century toreo is too sparse for us to knowor he was describing a theory of toreo as opposed to describing toreo as he had seen it performed, we will never know. However, lances and pases are often effected nowadays in such a way that they contain the three stages described by him and with the bull being drawn round the toreros body to a position in the remate from which a subsequent linked lance or pase may be initiated. Those lances and pases which most impress me are completed in this way. If they are, then they are complete from beginning to end
José Antonio del Moral and Amós Salvador y Rodrigáñez are not, of course, the only authorities to whom I might have turned for an outline of these fixed rules: del Moral is the most modern and most comprehensive I have found and Rodrigáñez deals with an aspect not often touched upon. At least since Don Diego Ramírez de Haro included advice on toreo a pie in his Tratado. . . in the late 16th century, the authors of tauromaquias have tried to codify rules for its executionInstrucciones para Torear a Pie commonly called La Cartilla de la Biblioteca de Osuna (around 1720); Pepe Hillo (1796), Montes (1836); Guerrita (1896); Federico M Alcázar (1936) Domingo Ortega (1961); Luis Bollaín (1968); Rafael Ortega (1986), for example. Indeed, most of us could have made a pretty good stab at listing them by ourselves. That they have not changed greatly with the passage of time gives them a certain credibility; that the earlier writers indicate that toreo carried out in accordance with them will be safe toreo is interesting; that toreo as art is assumed in all of them without discussion of how it comes to be art is unfortunate. Yet some relationship between them and art must be established if an artistic component of toreo is to be isolated.
The fixed rules may not have changed greatly over the ages, the concept of toreo as art seems to have done.
The early tauromaquiasPepe Hillo and Montes, for exampleuse the phrase "Arte de Torear" in their titles. Now these documents were written before or during the evolution of toreo from the purely functional to the partly artistic. Were their authors thinking of toreo as art in a modern sense such as that of del Moral? I think not.
I did some historical research once into a couple of what were called in the 19th Century Mechanics Institutes or Schools of Art. Much of what they taught concerned the satisfactory completion of mechanical processes such as the manufacture of instruments or industrial products. I have heard boxing called "the noble art". I have a certificate of typewriting proficiency issued by the Royal Society of Arts. Typewriting cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called an art. It seems to me just as likely that 19th century Spaniards applied the term "arte de torear" to a purely functional activity as the 20th century RSA applied the term art to the purely functional activity of typewriting. Indeed, we can visit any Spanish feria or trade fair today and see the products of the cheese-making art or the sausage-making art or the leather-working art. I suggest that much of toreo has always been, and still is, craft rather than art. We would, I think, do well not to accept too readily that the "arte de toreo" discussed by the early writers is what is meant by toreo as art today.
José Antonio del Moral explains nicely that toreo has evolved from being a set of purely functional activities to being a source of artistic creations. Even today, art is not always going to be present in toreo. We may often find ourselves watching functional toreo at the same time as, or separately from, artistic toreo. I think we could sensibly incorporate that distinction into our meditations and discussions of toreo by differentiating between toreo in its wider sense and the toreo as art.
It is time, remembering that this is a personal view, for some reflection on what in toreo might be considered as art. For art to be present in toreo, I assume that there must be an artefact. The painter uses his canvas, paints and brushes to make a painting; the potter uses wheel, water, clay and glaze to make his pot; the novelist or poet uses words to make a novel or a poem; the composer arranges his notes to make a score. There are several elements in these creative processes which always strike me when I think of toreo as art. Each of the artists is in a sense creating order out of the original chaos of his materials by organising them into the work of art. If at any time, during the creative act, the non-taurine artist is unhappy about the way his artefact is progressing towards completion, he can throw it away and start over again without ever showing what he had inadequately created to the rest of the world; many artists can rehearse their art again and again until it is perfect. The torero does not have these luxuries. Finally, works of art frequently convey some sort of meaning to the viewer. I say frequently because there are accepted art forms, some modern painting and sculpture for example, in which I cannot find a meaning and in front of which I sometimes say, "That means nothing to me". I personally respond positively to order, especially when I understand what it has been created out of; others may respond similarly. I think we must be sympathetic to toreros who have to work with material which is not conducive to the creation of art but which they cannot throw away. I respond positively to art which I think conveys some meaning to me, a point to which I will return later.
This discussion, and some of what follows, hints that toreo is an art the response to which is constrained by some analytical process involving the intellect rather than the emotions. This need not be the case. I believe that the art of toreo reaches us through our sense of sight in the form of visual images and, also through it, in the detection of rhythmical movement. We do not need to make analytical judgements as we respond emotionally to toreo any more than we need to make them as we respond to painting, sculpture, opera, poetry, or any other art form. We do need to make them if we, as "informed spectators", wish to share our appreciation with others in discussion or by describing what we have seen in writing.
What does the toreo have with which to create his artefact? His own body; that of the bull; the lure (and since I am largely considering toreo a pie here, that means capote or muleta); the sword; the banderillas.
What does he create with them? Individual lances with the capote; individual pases with the muleta; linked series of lances or pases with these lures; manoeuvres during the suerte de banderillas; an entire faena made up of individual pases or sets of linked pases; the suerte de matar with muleta and sword. It seems to me that these are the only artefacts possible in the art of toreo.
And what is there about them that might be felt to be so aesthetically pleasing that it merits the title of art? It seems to me that if there is any such thing it must be to do with the conjoint rhythmical movement of man, bull and lure, and with the images created by the juxtaposing of man, bull and lure in relation one with the other, let us call them sculptured images from now on. Two other human activities spring to my mind as being based on similar elements to those just described: ballet and ice-dancing. I suggest that our response to ballet as art is to the images conveyed to us in the rhythmic conjoint movement of the human body or bodies involved. I also suggest that ice-dancing of the kind created by Torville and Dean when they danced their Bolero routines was memorable because of the rhythmical conjoint movement of the two protagonists involved. It may seem to be stretching things a bit far to call ice-dancing an art: but there is a component of the judging of that sport called "artistic impression" as well as one for "technical merit". Interestingly, judges seem to be able to cope with that and to be able to assess the artistic impression of what they see as well as assessing technical merit. This essay is fundamentally about toreo as art, but that we need to take account of the technical merit of what the torero does must never be forgotten. I admit that the above activities are carried out to the rhythm of music already written. That is one way in which they differ from toreo. That the art of toreo has its own rhythm, I will argue later.
So, I am suggesting that if there is art in toreo at all, it stems from the relative positioning of man, bull and lure; the rhythmical conjoint movement of man, bull and lure; the sculptured images created by and during those positionings and movements; and the establishment of harmony and order where little existed before the toreo started.
It seems to me that, since we are concerned with conjoint rhythmical movement and sculptured forms, the greater the likelihood that such movements and forms will exist, the greater the possibility that we will respond to them as art. The longer a lance or pase takes to unfold, the greater is the potential for conjoint movement of man, lure and bull; the longer the path taken by the bull in the charge, the greater will be the potential for conjoint movement of man, lure and bull. If the lances or pases are linked together, the greater will be the potential for rhythmical, conjoint movement. If a faena de muleta is built up of series after series of complete, linked pases with no unnecessary movement of man or bull in the essential rest periods between pases, and then brought to an end with a perfectly executed kill, than the summit of taurine art will have been reached. Because these long, linked lances or pases cannot be performed without the bull, lure and man being close to each other, the potential for the creation of beautiful sculptured forms is great.
The purpose of this essay is to conjecture about what there is in toreo that raises it an art form and not to suggest a scale of measurements by which different manifestations of the art of toreo may be placed in some sort of hierarchy. Nevertheless, we all know that there are aficionados capable of waiting years to acclaim one or two artistic verónicas from their favourite torero. We also know of toreros who can build entire artistic faenas quite frequently. The duration of the artefact in time does raise some interesting questions. Are a few artistic verónicas as meritorious as a complete artistic faena? Does the torero who can only perform isolated artistic lances or pases from time to time have sufficient control of his material to be hailed as an artist at all? If a torero can perform a few artistic manoeuvres to a given bull, why cannot he perform several, or many? In the end, it will be the individual aficionado who will find his own answers to these questions.
There is insufficient space here to deal with every possible lance or pase in turn. Let us, therefore, discuss the most fundamental pase of all, the natural, in the hope that readers will be able to transfer conclusions about it to the others by themselves.
In a pase which contains the three elements of the pase (or lance) as discussed above, the bull will describe a curved path round the body of the torero to end up in a position from which a similar pase may be joined to the first. If the palillo is held as close to the matadors body as possiblewe must never forget that the condition of each bull will influence all aspects of the manoeuvres carried out with itthen the bull will pass as closely to the body as possible in the middle of the pase. If the matador keeps his feet still in the pase, if the movement of the cloth is controlled to keep it in front of but close to the horns of the bull then the pase will be parado and templado. If the pase is carried through to the point from which a cite for a linked pase is possible, cargar la suerte will have been performed and the matador will have been in control throughout, mando will have been achieved. Technically the pase will be as perfect as possible. But if completed as the fixed rules dictate, the bull will have passed close to the man, allowing a memorable sculptured image to be created and it will have had that rhythmical conjoint movement which I believe has the potential to positively affect our aesthetic sensibilities. But it will have more.
I mentioned earlier that art often conveys meaning. I believe that toreo as a whole is a metaphor for the whole of life with all of its successes and failures and new beginnings; its high and low points; its chaos and its formality; its ugliness and its beauty; its enthusiasms and its ennui; its confidence and its fear; its security and its insecurity; its vibrant life and the ever-looming proximity of death. I believe that the art of toreo conveys its own message: that man can, by the exercise of courage, intelligence, and skill, triumph over the forces which seek to destroy him and over the fear of death. Indeed, I can think of no human activity that conveys that meaning so well. However, for that meaning to be conveyed, the torero must put himself at risk. And it is this element which gives the art of toreo its emotional charge, for it is not just well-conceived and beautifully executed: it is created in the face of death.
It seems to me that actions in which there is no chance that the destructive force, the bull, will be able to destroy the torero, or no circumstances in which the fear of death need be present the meaning is removed from what is happening. Thus, a torero faced with a shaved bull or a bull which cannot attackthrough being rendered moribund by a picador; being physically unfit through ill-breeding, ill-feeding or lack of physique; or exhausted by the manoeuvres to which it has been subjected, for examplecannot convey the meaning of the art of toreo, and therefore cannot perform it. Similarly, any manoeuvre performed in such a way that the only fear of death present is fear of death by accidenttripping, stumbling, or from a piece of equipment, for instancecannot be that art. Nor need the injuries or deaths of toreros in the arena convey the meaning of the art. They are more likely to convey that to be present in the bullring with the bull is a potentially dangerous activity in the same way as ascending the north face of the Eiger or racing a Formula I car are potentially dangerous activities. The presence of such danger is no unimportant thing, and we may thrill at feeling its presence. But it is not materially relevant to toreo as art. In toreo as art, it is the danger faced by the individual torero with the individual toro at a specific time as the creates his artefact that is relevant.
We have already read what Salvador y Rodrigáñez has to say about the three stages of the pase and they may easily be applied to the pase natural. José Antonio del Moral discusses the natural thus.
"To give this pase in accordance with the classical norms, the matador ought to go towards the bull to cite it frontally, allowing himself to be seen, with the muleta in the left hand, squared up as it falls, gripping the palillo which sustains it (the "estaquillador") by its mid point, and offering his chest. The cite will be made with the muleta very far forward of his body, at the distance demanded by the condition of each bull and what the torero can stand. This distance ought not to be so short that the animal is smothered, nor so long that it loses the bulls focus on the muleta. There are bulls which charge quickly and with enthusiasm at the moment in which they are cited; others, through a lack of strength, with less enthusiasm. For the latter, the torero will advance the contrary legthe right in this caseto attract the bulls attention, whilst the hand which sustains the sword will rest lightly over the right hip. Thus, the sword ought not to serve to help the execution of the pase and, if it does, it will only be to weigh up the path of the bull in a testing pase. The muleta will move to attract the attention of the animal and provoke its charge by means of a light jerk by the torero of the hand holding it. It is the moment in which the matador initiates the pase and gets the bull moving, advancing the exit leg (the left) to signal the most appropriate trajectory for the execution of the curve of the manoeuvre until he ends it with the arm flowingly extended backwards towards his back, low or high according to the strength of the bull or his intention to join the pase with another, or to free himself. In the middle of the manoeuvre, the matador will be turning at the waist to accompany the bulls journey; this is a time at which his chest, which began facing the bull, will gradually move into a parallel position with the animals path, without the torero losing his focussed view of the bulls horns and the folds of the lure, until the pase is ended. In this last instant of the natural pase, all the weight of the body of the torero will be thrown on to the left foot, while he continues to lift the right one smoothly until he advances it in search of the next position, from which he will cite for another natural pase without the necessity of adjusting the terrain in which he gave the previous one. Thus a pase will be joined to another in a circle, the toreo will be joined together until it is circular, which is wearying for the bull and emotional for the public. There will come a moment in which he will have to end the series with a pase cambiado de pechothe greatest aristocrat of toreo de muletaor to depart elegantly from the face of the bull.
In toreo with the natural and in other similar manoeuvres, all in which the cite is performed in profile detracts from the purity and classicism. What I do not wish to say is that profiled toreo must be rejectedat times it is made necessary by the dullness of the bullsbut that it is less elegant, less perfect."
Once again, del Moral is a miracle of precision and comprehensiveness. He captures all that makes the pase natural beautiful: the three stages of the pase; the four necessities of toreo: parar, templar, mandar and cargar la suerte; the elegant risk involved by the torero standing on the line of charge in the cite and passing the bull in a close curved path round his body; and the linking of pases together in series. His description of the whole pase implies close, rhythmical conjoint movement and his description of the mid point of the pase draws in words the sculptured image which I believe to be one of the components of toreo as art.
Rodrigáñez claims that toreo performed in accordance with his three stages of the pase is the safest kind of toreo. The torero starts with the lure covering his body and keeps the bull focussed on it as the three stages of the pase develop and until it is placed at a safe distance. That has for long caused a difficulty of understanding for me. How can it be safer for a torero to stand in the bulls natural pathway and deflect it round his body than, for instance, to cite in profile at the side of the bulls natural pathway and let it run past in a straight line? The answer which finally dawned on me is entirely in accordance with my ideas on what makes toreo an art. The method of performing the pase as described above is only the safest method if the torero gets it right. If he makes a mistake, then he is more at the mercy of the bull than in any other type of manoeuvre. So, not only does the pase performed in this way appeal to our aesthetic sensibilities with its rhythmical conjoint movement, it directly conveys the meaning of the art of toreo and in so doing creates that hair-raising emotional tension encapsulated in the oft-quoted aphorism which states that the torero, like the epic hero, is seeking "honour through risk."
Rodrigáñez and del Moral both end on the subject of joining the pases one to another. It is a subject dealt with by several modern critics. And it is certain that, no matter where the linking of the pases originated or who performed the process first, it is a feat accomplished by many modern toreros.
It seems to me that it is in the linking of pases that lies the greatest potential of all for rhythmical conjoint movement of man, lure and bull and the creation of appealing sculptured forms. The movement is extended in time; the rhythm of the linking of the pases is added to that achieved in the single pase or lance; there is potential for a succession of appealing images; there is a great deal of parar, templar, cargar and mandar. Clearly it is in the latter stages of the individual manoeuvre that the linkage is effected, as del Moral describes it in his description of the final stages of the pase natural above. There we have the "ligar sin enmendarse"to link without adjusting positionso highly praised by Luis Bollaín in his El Toreo. And, for me, it is in this that toreo comes nearest to having a musical feel. As a torero in full flow swings his contrary leg to take up position for the following pase and then performs it, we may or may not have what José Bergamín thought was the quiet music of toreo, but we have quiet music of a very tangible kind. When series upon series of pases such as these are performed in a relatively small area of the arena, and the rest periods seem appropriately spaced and of appropriate length, we have the art of toreo at the highest possible levelthe greatest amount of conjoint movement of man, bull and lure and the greatest possible potential for the creation of appealing sculptured images.
I hinted earlier that I consider it possible to perform the art of toreo with the banderillas. Let us take the most common method of placement, the cuarteo. Properly performed, the suerte demands that the torero cites the bull from the appropriate distance using his body as the lure. Once the bull embarks on the charge, the torero marks a path for it to follow, performs cargar la suerte on the curve if you like, until he is centrally in front of the horns. From that position, he places the sticks with the hands held high and effectively performs a remate by stopping the bull momentarily. Jose Antonio del Moral explains it.
"That which is most celebrated by the public in the cuarteo is to arrive gradually with the sticks in the most propitious positioning to provoke the charge of the bull, to perform the smallest possible cuarteo, to meet the bull frontally, drawing the sticks from low down to the height of the forehead, to lean over the horns of the bull to make the placement ("coming out on to the balcony" in the argot), and to leave the suerte like someone going to the bar of a pub without a hint of speed as if walking away from a friend."
Whether the rhythmical movement of the two routes is conjoint enough to be artistic is arguable. But if the movement leads the two protagonists to the proper conjunction it does look impressive, and the sculptured form as the torero comes out on to the balcony, feet pointing towards the toros front hooves, cuadrado, hands up and sticks together and parallel, is close, impressive and, I think, beautiful. And in that walk to the bar, the meaning of the art is fully conveyed. Since all methods of placing the banderillas except the purely expedient entail signalling a path for the bull and a sculptured image at the end, similar cases could be constructed for their artistic nature.
I suggest that the kill may also be artistic. In the volapié properly performed, the matador will cite from a position directly in front of the horns. But the cite this time is not intended to make the bull move. It is intended to lower the bulls head and to expose to the matador the place into which the sword must be placed. As the matador moves forward to place the sword, he will push the muleta across, outwards, and away from him, making a cross with his arms and moving the bulls head away from his body, cargando la suerte if you like, until the sword is placed, the danger is past and the bull is mortally wounded. The movement is conjoint, but may be too fast to make it rhythmical and artistic. However, the final image of man and bull close, the former safe and the latter dying, is the most beautiful, meaningful, and appropriate of all. It is the culmination of the art of toreo. And if the matador decides to kill recibiendo, the original, most difficult, and most satisfying method of killing of all, the three stages of the manoeuvrethe cite, cargar la suerte and remateare all plain to see and the torero has to parar, templar and mandar in the most dangerous situation of all. A well administered kill recibiendo is definitely toreo as art.
Much of the discussion above is focussed on the pase natural. It is trusted that aficionados will be able to translate the discussion of the fixed rules in relation to the natural into a reflection upon the other pases and lances in which the toro is taken past the man in a complete pase. There are, of course, lances and pases in which the bull completely passes the man but in which one or more of the elements which raise toreo to the level of art are absent. There are also many manoeuvres in which the bull does not completely pass the man or does so without the three stages of the lance or pase being completed: recortes, abanicar (the suerte in which the torero moves the bull from one part of the ring to another deflecting the toro from side to side with the capote as he moves backwards), the mariposa, the chicuelina, the gaonera, and the galleos with the capote and things such as pases de tirón, macheteo, the abaniqueo with the muleta, the kikirikí, the molinete, the manoletina with the muleta, for instance. Some of both of these types of manoeuvre are purely functional suertes and it seems to me that we would neither perceive them nor wish to discuss them in terms of art. Nevertheless, there are some which by the nature of the sculptured form they produce might be felt to be artistic. I do not think, for instance, that the larga cambiada de rodillas can possibly be called art. The man cites from between the horns, he pases the bull past his body, he may even, though I have never seen it, signal a pathway in a remate preparatory to another pase, and he creates a memorable and impressive image. But for me the whole thing happens so quickly and so aggressively and creates a tension so full of fear that I think I am responding to something more primitive than and very different from art. That the suerte may be considered to be art by others would not surprise me. Similarly, the manoletina has a cite, which could be from between the horns, and the bull passes the man. But if a line is signalled for the toro, it is a straight line, and there is no remate in the sense of a deliberate placement of the bull. Yet, the sculptured form produced in the middle of the pase can be very impressive and the tension created can be enormous. This is another manoeuvre which I cannot accept as artistic; that others might classify it as art would not surprise me.
The manoletina is, of course, an adorno. And many adornos with both cape and muleta look beautiful though they do not obey all of the fixed rules discussed earlier. Where do they fit into the art of toreo? I suggest that their beauty lies in the sculptured forms created as they are produced. These forms may in themselves evoke a response in the viewer which allows that viewer to see and feel them as art. But for others, the forms may be too fleeting, too aggressive, too excessive in their number in any one quite or faena, to be classified as art. I suggest that adornos can have their place. The art of toreo is concentrated, tense, slow, rhythmical, captivating. The adorno is light, gay, often rapid, flourishing, relieving. Beautifully executed, adornos may add to the art of toreo a spice, a frivolity, a flourish, a relief, which is entirely in keeping with the work of art being produced and entirely satisfying for the spectator. They may not be art in themselves, but when added to the toreo before, around or after them they may make a contribution. And the same may be said for some desplantes. The light and leisurely folding of the muleta over the palillo in the face of the bull and the measured walk away from the animal strike me as exquisite. But I do not much care for the lateral swinging of the hips in the face of the bull at the end of a series of pases. It produces an image which, to use a Scottish phrase, "gars me grue". For me it detracts from the art of toreo.
And there are many other things which detract from the art of toreo. This is not the place for a long catalogue of such things, but there are some which we see so often that a brief sally through the most common may be in order.
If only the verónicas at the salutation of the bull or in the quites were performed as Salvador y Rodrigáñez describes the manoeuvre. But more often then not, they are done singly, with the matador either running back from the bull or drawing the entry leg back as the bull enters the pase. José Antonio del Moral advises us.
"It is convenient to alert new spectators about the need to fix themselves always on the feet of the torero when he performs the verónica: whether they stay still while the suerte unfolds and gain terrain towards the bull in each lance, or take a pace backwards, losing terrain and giving it to the bull, thus detracting from the most correct execution. At times, the toreros make the lance a trick by throwing backwards the leg contrary to that which should be advancedthat which does not mark the exit from the lanceachieving the same aesthetic image similar to the ideal but which is not authentic."
It is suggested above with reference to the cuarteo that properly performed suertes de banderillas may be artistic. In many of the cases in which the suerte is performed, the torero is beyond the horns when he places the sticks, often with the hands held low, spoiling the sculptured image of the artistic encounter.
Perhaps the two most common ways in which toreros perform toreo which cannot be artistic, is in the cite fuera de cacho or in the half pase, or in the two combined. If the torero cites from off the potential line of charge of the bull, he cannot perform a complete pase in accordance with the fixed rules outlined above and by so doing he loses much of the potential for conjoint rhythmical movement and appealing sculptured images. He also removes any sense of meaning from what he is doing by taking away the feeling that he is placing himself at risk. Too often we see a torero try to cite, profiled and with the muleta level with or behind his waist, from off the line of charge, failing, and edging gradually on to and then across the line until, eventually, the bull embarks. I often wonder if it would not be more safe as well as more artistic for the torero to go to the crossed position where he will definitely get the pase in the first place rather than edging through a number of failed attempts to get the bull to move before achieving the charge. In any event, I find the whole technique to be ugly and tedious. If the muleta is not advanced in the cite, even if the torero is on the natural line of charge, the pase cannot be complete. It is possible for the torero to perform a remate to such a pase; indeed, the remate is often the only stage of the pase that is complete, but a partial pase does not afford nearly as much opportunity to create sculptured forms or rhythmical conjoint movement. The cite to the opposite horn with an angled muleta is another common manoeuvre. The effect is to separate the toro laterally from the torero in the middle of the pasethat may be the intentionand so remove the opportunity to create sculptured forms and, by removing the sense of risk, to convey the meaning of toreo. It sometimes involves the torero in a grotesque lean from the waist. How often do we think that it would be possible to get a bus between the torero and the bull when such a pase is performed? Of course, the angled muleta to the opposite horn may be a legitimate recourse for a bull which would otherwise cut in and collide with the torero rather than go past. In such a case, the legitimate manoeuvre becomes, in my opinion, not art, but craft.
And at the kill, the torero often moves round the horn to place a low sword in a manner which removes the potential to create that final, authentic, conjunction of man and bull which not only is beautiful and satisfying but also tells us that the man is confident that he has moulded the bull to his will and may enter directly with impunity to place a swordthrust in the cruz.
Why, we may wonder, do we see so little of the wonderful toreo discussed above? Clearly, it is very difficult to perform. Moreover, the type of bull with which it may be performed is relatively rare. Once again, José Antonio del Moral is helpful in giving us an understanding of this.
"What do we understand by authenticity? To define it it will have to be made clear that the best toreo, the most pure, can only be created with bulls which charge with nobilitymore or less hiddenbut with nobility. There is nobody who can torear a difficult or complex toro in terms of what we understand the term authenticity to mean. Although we must recognise that these days a great part of the toros which are fought in the principal ferias and plazas are toreable, or at least manageable, for the muleta if the torero manages to discover the place and the distance where he must place himself to torear and the precise speed at which to move the lure in time with the speed of the bull. We already discussed that when we spoke of temple. With good and very good bulls, almost all the toreros are confident and torear with more or less art. Very few are capable of making the best of horrible bulls aesthetically.
It is with the others, the bulls which charge with this or that defect, that the toreros ought to show their professionalism. A torero who fights n hundred corridas a year, lets take as an example a leading figura, can encounter ten or fifteen excellent toros and as many impossible ones. With the first it is sure that he will reach the heights of triumph. With the last, he ought to simply demonstrate skill up to the time of the kill. But that which will always determine his primacy will be the ability to triumph with bulls of average quality; cattle with which bad professionals almost never triumphby being very artistic and inspired which they demonstrate with very easy bulls-and which give the measure of the true lidiador: to know how to resolve the problems of each bull; to accommodate himself to their defects and, if he can, correct them or make them disappear; to choose the most appropriate terrains to achieve this most easily; to determine the ideal distance between the bull and the torero in the initial cites, to have a sense of the very precise measure and time so that he will not fall short or lengthen the faena too much and to divine when the bull is showing itself to be in the most appropriate state for an entry to kill it."
Whether José Antonios calculation that 15 percent of bulls will be excellent, 15 percent all-but illiadable and 70 percent capable of having their problems resolved by a masterif they actually meet a masteris precise or not (it might be interesting to verify it from our own experiences) it does indicate that opportunities for the creation of, and therefore the enjoyment of, the art of toreo in its most authentic form will be limited. It will leave him very disappointed if the only toreo that satisfies him is artistic toreo. But he need not be disappointed. Provided that the torero genuinely tries to solve the problems of the awful or the average bulls with which he is faced, the aficionado is guaranteed to see toreo which, though it will often fall short of toreo as art, can be interesting, entertaining, satisfying, and, in its own way, authentic.
It seems to me that to assess the merit of the toreo required for average or illiadable bulls is much more difficult for the aficionado than the appreciation of the art of toreo. Even those who would not dream of trying to analyse toreo as art seem to be able to recognise it perfectly well, evidence, I think of a widespread emotional response to artistic toreo. Everyone in the plaza waves his handkerchief for a truly great and artistic faena. It is more difficult to recognise the merit, which is technical merit, of toreo to average or difficult bulls. To do so requires a precise knowledge of the characteristics of each bull and the ability to apply that knowledge to 85 percent of the bulls that one sees. Since each torero will have a different ability in respect of solving the problems of such bulls, the assessment of his performance requires the application of knowledge of that ability. Perhaps this is most true of really difficult bulls. There are relatively modest toreros with experience who are technically very good at dealing with some of the bulls from the ranches which are considered to supply difficult bulls. Really honest efforts from theminterestingly, they are often forced to apply the fixed rules discussed above to keep themselves safeare often extremely interesting and satisfying. Younger toreros who are forced to take on difficult bulls because they cannot get contracts with animals from ranches breeding easier ones, often have great difficulty in dealing with such animals. We can hardly expect the latter to perform as well as the former. Then we have the toreo performed by toreros who have no pretensions to being artists. The craftsmanlike toreo of those who are forced, or choose, to torear difficult or complex bulls had already been mentioned. The tremendistas also spring to mind. Generally, they try hard to do their thing with whatever emerges from the toril. Much of what they do is based on tricks such as running the bull in straight lines, forcing it into close partial charges by entering its terrain or toreando at the flank of the bull once the horns are past. I sometimes enjoy what they do, especially when I am convinced that their ability to do it is based on a deep knowledge of the behaviour of the bulls, or when they are manifestly doing their work with effort and enthusiasm. But it is not art that I am enjoying.
The purpose of this essay has been to explain how one aficionado thinks that toreo can be an art. It may also help readers to a better understanding of the corrida reports that aficionado writes. It may even contribute towards a common set of terms for the discussion of toreo as art. It is not its purpose to discuss the relationship between the nature of the average or difficult bull and the toreo performed with it, which must be the concern of the aficionado with, if we accept José Antonio del Morals figures, around 85 percent of the bulls that he sees. Fortunately, that needs not be discussed. We CTL members have already been privileged to read a tremendously detailed and useful treatise on the subject in Tristan Woods brilliant series of articles on Assessing the Bull in the Plaza de Toros, published in numbers 112, 113, 115 and 116 of La Divisa in 1996. Armed with the knowledge contained therein, those aficionados who have not already done so should be able to work out what the toreros before them should be doing with each bull they are facing. In the process of learning about the problems presented with that majority of bulls, they will, I think, come to realise that there is much more to toreo than art. Moreover, they will come to realise that non artistic toreo can be every bit as meritoriousperhaps even more meritorious, because the bulls that demand it are much more difficult than those with which the art of toreo is performedthan toreo which is pure art. Because the authentic art of toreo is only possible with around 15 percent of the bulls they see, they will realise the futility of expecting to see it every afternoon. In looking for other things to appreciate and enjoy, they may come to understand toreo in all its shades and varieties. In these realisations, they will have become able, like the judges of an ice dancing competition, to evaluate the technical merit of what the toreros are doing and to give its due weight alongside their evaluation of the artistic merit of what they have seen.