Painted in Paris in 1912, Zuloaga's sumptuous portrait of one of his favourite sitters, Lolita Lacour, is a studied essay in cultural sophistication and material wealth that reflects his strong Spanish roots and cosmopolitan up-bringing.
Reclining on a sofa covered in a richly ornamented mantón de Manila, Lolita coyly holds a painted fan in her right hand while her left arm langurously traces the sofa back as she fixes her gaze on the viewer. The mantón, the silk for which was originally imported from the Philippines, is a traditional Spanish shawl that that was worn for celebrations, bullfights and feast days. The finely observed floral patterns of the blue and white mantón and her rich red and silver tiered flamenco skirt recalls the sumptuous fabrics to be found in the portraits of the French nineteenth-century master Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. The coquettish pose is clearly a reprise of Goya's Maja vestida.
Lolita is one of a small group of especially resplendent reclining ladies that Zuloaga painted immediately before World War I on a grand scale. Others included portraits of the Countess of Noailles, the Duchess of Alba and another of his favourite models Marcelle Souty. In his depictions of Mme Lacour and Mme Souty, like Goya before him, Zuloaga did not just paint these sitters vestida but also desnudo, exactly as Goya had a century earlier.
Paris had long been Zuloaga's second home. He had been sent there to boarding school when growing up, and had arrived there as an art student in 1889 to study in the atelier of Eugène Carrière. In the succeeding years Zuloaga developed a wide and influential group of Parisian friends and acquaintances, including Edgar Degas and Auguste Rodin; the latter he took on a tour of Madrid, Toledo and Andalusia in 1905.
Dividing his time between Spain and France a pattern developed for where he would work and when: Paris during the winter and part of the summer, Segovia or Madrid, and Eibar in the north of Spain at different times during the rest of the year. As the years passed he sent his pictures to an increasing number of international exhibitions from Rome to Santiago in Chile. The present work was included in Zuloaga's 43-piece exhibition in the United States, touring to museums and galleries in New York, Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Saint Louis and Minneapolis between 1916-18. This seminal show in the career of the artist was accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with an enthusiastic foreword by John Singer Sargent.
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