Blood & Brocade

Trajes de luces are a work of art , a bright aperitif before the torero weaves his thanatocentric spell around the spectacle
The intensity and opulence of the decoration is in accordance with the importance of bullfighting in Spanish culture
This is a blood sport that will be hard to legislate against
English hunting, now banned, with its particular clothing, traditions and paraphernalia lacked a sense of art
Here Hemingway gives a dry appraisal about the clothing as seen at the start of a corrida in Pamplona
If you aren’t aware Romero has been in a fight the previous night such that his face is as colorful as his suit

 introduction by Tim Harris


excerpts from The Sun also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926) by Scribner paperback edition (2006)

When the fiesta boiled over and toward the bull-ring we went with the crowd. Brett sat at the ringside between Bill and me. Directly below us was the callejon, the passageway between the stands and the red fence of the barrera. Behind us the concrete stands filled solidly. Out in front, beyond the red fence, the sand of the ring was smooth-rolled and yellow. It looked a little heavy from the rain, but it was dry in the sun and firm and smooth. The sword handlers and bull-ring servants came down the callejon carrying on their shoulders the wicker baskets of fighting capes and muletas. They were bloodstained and compactly folded and packed in the baskets. The sword-handlers opened the heavy leather sword-cases so the red wrapped hilts of the sheaf of swords showed as the leather case leaned against the fence. They unfolded the dark-stained red flannel of the muletas and fixed batons in them to spread the stuff and give the matador something to hold. Brett watched it all.She was absorbed in the professional details.

He’s his name stenciled on all the capes and muletas, she said. Why do they call them muletas?
I don’t know.
I wonder if they ever launder them.
I don’t think so. It might spoil the colour.
The blood must stiffen them, Bill said.
Funny, Brett said. How one doesn’t mind the blood.


Bellow in the narrow passage of the callejon the sword-handlers arranged everything. All the seats were full. There was not an empty seat except in the President’s box. When he came in the fight would start. Across the smooth sand, in the high doorway that led into the corrals, the bull-fighters were standing, their arms furled in their capes, talking, waiting for the signal to march into the arena. Brett was watching them with the glasses.

Here would you like to look?


I looked through the glasses and saw the three matadors, Romero was in the centre, Belmonte on his left, Marcial on his right. Back of them were their people, and behind the banderilleros, back in the passageway and in the open space of the corral, I saw the picadors. Romero was wearing a black suit. His tricornered hat was low down over his eyes. I could not see his face clearly under the hat, but it looked badly marked. He was looking straight ahead. Marcial was smoking a cigarette guardedly, holding it in his hand. Belmonte looked ahead, his face wan and yellow, his long wolf jaw out. He was looking at nothing. Neither he nor Romero seemed to have anything in common with the others. They were all alone. The President came in; there was handclapping above us in the grand stand, and I handed the glasses to Brett. There was applause. The music started. Brett looked through the glasses.

Here, take them, she said.

Through the glasses I saw Belmonte speak to Romero. Marcial straightened up and dropped his cigarette, and, looking straight ahead, their heads back, their free arms swinging, the three matadors walked out. Behind them came all the procession, opening out, all striding in step, all the capes furled, everybody with free arms swinging, and behind rode the picadors, their pics rising like lances. Behind all came the two trains of mules and the bull-ring servants. The matadors bowed, holding their hats on, before the President’s box, and then came over to the barrera below us. Pedro Romano took off his heavy gold-brocaded cape and handed it over the fence to his sword-handler. He said something to the sword-handler. Close below us we saw Romero’s lips were puffed, both eyes were discoloured. His face was discoloured and swollen. The sword-handler took the cape, looked up at Brett, and came over to us and handed up the cape.


Spread it out in front of you, I said

Brett leaned forward. The cape was heavy and smoothly stiff with gold. The sword-handler looked back, shook his head, and said something. A man beside me leaned over towards Brett.

He doesn’t want you to spread it, he said. You should fold it and keep it in your lap.
Brett folded the heavy cape.

Romero did not look up at us. He was speaking to Belmonte. Belmonte had sent his formal cape over to some friends. He looked across at them and smiled, his wolf smile that was only with the mouth. Romero leaned over the barrera and asked for the water jug. The sword-handler brought it and Romero poured water over the percale of his fighting cape, and then scuffed the lower folds in the sand with his slippered foot.

What’s that for? Brett asked.

To give it weight in the wind.

images as they appear
Pétalos, by Firminius, Corpus 2010 – Granada, from
Marisa Flórez
Suit of Lights 1, by joven_60, Traje de Luces, La Plaza de Toros Mexico, (2008)
Detalle de un Traje de Torero, by megustanlostoros (2011), from
Matador Leonardo Benitez 2,  by joven_60, en La Plaza de Toros Oriente, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
Alcalá Aesthetics, from
Boris Horvat, AFP
Detail of Plaza de Toros 1, by joven_60, en La Plaza de Toros, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
joven_60 has many great images on his flckr account, these are some of the best bullfighting images you’ll see. Denis Doyle‘s have a visceral immediacy; joven_60’s are quieter but artfully taken with great character
This entry was published on May 2, 2016 at 8:30 pm. It’s filed under Bullfighting, Literature, Spain and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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