Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863-1923) Portrait of María Luisa Maldonado y Salabert, Marquesa de Torneros, daughter of the Count of Villagonzalo, full length

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Lot 14
Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida
(Spanish, 1863-1923)
Portrait of María Luisa Maldonado y Salabert, Marquesa de Torneros, daughter of the Count of Villagonzalo, full length

£ 180,000 - 250,000
US$ 230,000 - 320,000
Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863-1923)
Portrait of María Luisa Maldonado y Salabert, Marquesa de Torneros, daughter of the Count of Villagonzalo, full length
signed and dated 'J. Sorolla y Bastida/1907' (lower right)
oil on canvas
208 x 125cm (81 7/8 x 49 3/16in).

Footnotes

  • We are grateful to Blanca Pons-Sorolla for confirming the attribution to Joaquin Sorolla. The work is included in Blanca Pons-Sorolla's catalogue under inventory number BPS 2036.

    Provenance
    Commissioned by the father of the sitter, Count Villagonzalo.
    Thence by direct descent.
    Private collection, Spain.

    Exhibited
    London, Grafton Galleries, Exhibition of Paintings by Seňor Sorolla y Bastida, May-July 1908, no. 68.
    Madrid, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza & Museo Sorolla, Sorolla y la moda, February-May 2018, no. 66.

    Literature
    Bernardino de Pantorba, La Vida y La Obra de Joaquin Sorolla, Madrid, 1970, no. 2004, p. 207, as Retrato de la Srta. María Luisa de Maldonado, hija del Conde de Villagonzalo (de cuerpo entero) (illustrated in black and white p. 75).
    Blanca Pons-Sorolla, Joaquín Sorolla: Life and work, Madrid, 2001, p. 266.

    As a portraitist, Sorolla enjoyed regular commissions from an early stage in his career, giving the artist some financial security and enabling him to explore other genres of painting with less commercial pressures. Diez and Baron note that while the artist's portrait work is often overlooked, Sorolla's 'prolific labour as a portrait painter constitutes one of the most solid and fundamental pillars of his development as an artist. In this genre he revealed with greatest intensity his alignment with the grand tradition of the Spanish school'. The authors further note that 'Paradoxically, it was also the field in which he proved most permeable to...influences from international modes and fashions, adopting particular styles of portraiture to please the varied clientele'1, a commentary that might well be applied to the present lot, where Sorolla has adopted the mode of the classic English portraitist. Painted in 1907, the present portrait belongs to a period of creativity where the artist 'brought important compositional and scenographic innovation into his portraits, expanding their expressive possibilities in ways he would maintain throughout his career'.2 Here, the landscape is not merely a backcloth to the figure and is rendered with equal precision and care.

    Having enjoyed 'an excellent response to the likenesses he sent to The National Fine Arts exhibition in 1904'3 Sorolla was flooded with commissions, and these were not merely regarded as an adjunct to the artist's other works. Rather, these commissions were the bedrock of his attempt to cement an international reputation and portraiture formed a significant section of the works included in the artist's 1908 exhibition at the Grafton Galleries in London, a major retrospective of some 278 paintings. The present lot was among the portraits included. The exhibition was Sorolla's first major showing in London, and he was promoted as 'The World's Greatest Living Painter'. Diez and Baron note that Sorolla 'saw to it that the catalogue of that show included the following announcement on various pages and in the captions to several portraits reproduced therein: "Señor Sorolla will be pleased to undertake a few Commissions for Portraits"'. 4

    Writing in his critical introduction to the exhibition, Leonard Williams was effusive about the artist's work, noting with enthusiasm that: 'we are confronted, in Sorolla's art, with marvellous, well-nigh miraculous fecundity and quality, interpreting all aspects and developments of contemporary Spain - portraits of royal personages, nobles, commoners, of the artist's wife and children, of statesmen, novelists, poets, scientists, or soldiers; landscape and prospects of the naked sea; the bright and tender joys of infant life, the playful scenes of boyhood and of girlhood, sorrows and problems and anxieties of later age, the sordid schemes of evil-doers, the strenuous toilers of the deep, the simple cultivators of the soil, the village cares and pastimes of the peasantry'.5

    Doña María Luisa Maldonado y Salabert, born in 1888, was the daughter of Don Mariano Maldonado y Davalos, VII Count of Villagonzalo (1852-1921) and Dona Fernanda Salabert y Artega, Marquise de Valdeolmos (1887-1945). Doña María Luisa Maldonado was Marquesa de Torneros and then Marquise widow of Don Fernando Roca de Togores y Caballero, who was son of the Marquises of Molins.

    The portrait was painted in part at Sorolla's Madrid studio in the early months of 1907, while the background is the Sierra de Guadarrama, the landscape around the El Pardo estate where Sorolla's family were staying. When Sorolla's daughter Maria contracted tuberculosis, Sorolla's friends Carlos and Eulalia de Urcola –'good people... with uncommon generosity'- had offered the family use of 'La Angorilla', their estate located in the mountains outside the city. While Maria was recovering, Sorolla divided his time between his studio 'where he painted mostly portraits', and El Pardo, where he painted a number of tender studies of Maria- works such as My daughter's convalescence, Maria convalescing and Maria painting in El Pardo,- set against the dramatic backdrop of the Guadarrama mountains.6

    Letters from Sorolla to his wife Clotilde reveal that the present lot was a direct commission from the Count of Villagonzalo, who was himself a major art collector, and a close friend of the artist. The Count gave Sorolla some very precise instructions, indicating that she should be painted with a landscape behind her, in the style of the great English portrait painters. The letters also reveal that the painting was considered a great success amongst the society ladies of Madrid, Sorolla writing that 'They are all crazy with the picture of the Countess'.

    1 Diez and Baron (ed), Joaquin Sorolla, exhibition catalogue, Madrid, 2009, p. 80.
    2 Diez and Baron (ed), 2009, p. 87.
    3 Diez and Baron (ed), 2009, p. 34.
    4 Diez and Baron (ed), 2009, p. 88.
    5 Leonard Williams, Catalogue of the Exhibition of Paintings by Señor Sorolla y Bastida, at the Grafton Galleries, May, June & July 1908, London, 1908, critical introduction, p. 37.
    6 Diez and Baron (ed), 2009, p. 372.
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