‘Juan Torito’ – ‘Juan the Bull’ – is yet another mystery to add to the annals of erotic art history. The only certainty is that it is a pseudonym, and a pseudonym for a talented and imaginative engraver. The bullish images have every indication of being from the early to mid 1920s, but does the Spanish name and title tell the truth about our enigmatic artist?

Federico Ribas, Fin de Fiesta, 1934

If ‘Juan Torito’ is indeed Spanish, the obvious artist to ascribe these images to is Federico Ribas (1890–1952), possibly the most important and influential Spanish illustrator of the early twentieth century. Ribas’s work covered the entire gamut of graphic design, from magazine and book illustrations to posters and advertising, and certainly included images on the edge of the erotic in magazines such as La Esfera, Nuevo Mundo, and Blanco y Negro.

But Ribas, like most other Spanish illustrators of the era, was not a particularly adventurous artist, and had quite enough work of a popular nature not to need to create edgy erotica. So our feeling is that ‘Juan Torito’ is the nom d’artiste of a non-Spanish artist, possibly German but more likely French.

If you have any information which might help us identify this artist, we would love to hear from you.

Example illustration