Lot 74
  • 74

Joaquín Sorolla

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
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  • Niños en la playa (Children Playing on the Beach)
  • signed and dated J Sorolla y Bastida 1904 upper right
  • oil on canvas
  • 55 by 96.5cm., 21¾ by 38in.


Conde de Heeren, Paris (purchased at Galerie Georges Petit in 1906). Born in Hamburg, Conde Christian Arturo Juan Antonio de Heeren (1844-1920) married Virginia González de Candamo e Iriarte (1849-1929). Together they assembled a remarkable art collection which featured a number of outstanding Spanish paintings, including excellent examples by Mariano Fortuny and Raimundo de Madrazo (see lot. 95). Especially attracted to the work of Sorolla, at the same time as they acquired the present painting at Galerie Georges Petit in 1906, they also purchased El bote blanco (The White Boat), fig. 2). 
Thence by descent to the present owners


Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Joaquín Sorolla, 1906


La Ilustracion Artística, Madrid, 1906, a photograph of Sorolla in his studio with the present work illustrated 
Bernardino de Pantorba, La vida y la obra de Joaquín Sorolla, Madrid, 1970, p. 186, no. 1520
Blanca Pons-Sorolla, Joaquín Sorolla. Vida y obra, Madrid, 2001, p. 568, a photograph of the interior of Galerie Georges Petit at the time of Sorolla's exhibition in 1906 showing the present work hanging on the lower row second from the left illustrated
Joaquín Sorolla, Museo Nacional del Prado, exh. cat., Madrid, 2009, p. 337, fig. 238, the photograph from La ilustración artistica of 1906, of Sorolla in his studio with the present work illustrated 


This condition report has been provided by Hamish Dewar, Hamish Dewar Ltd. Fine Art Conservation, 14 Masons Yard, Duke Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6BU. Structural Condition The canvas is unlined and evenly stretched on what would certainly appear to be the original stretcher. There is one patch on the reverse of the canvas which is just below the upper horizontal stretcher-bar as viewed from the reverse. There are two other areas on the reverse of the canvas where patches have been removed and very small areas of structural repair where the canvas has been strengthened. The overall structural condition is now sound and stable and no further structural intervention is required. Paint Surface The paint surface has an even varnish layer. Inspection under ultra-violet light shows small retouchings, the most significant of which are: 1) small retouchings in the shadows in the water beneath the toy boats on the right of the composition, 2) scattered small retouchings in the water beneath the child on the left of the composition and an area measuring approximately 1 x 1.5 cm in the same child's hair, and 3) an area in the upper left of the composition which corresponds to the patch on the reverse of the canvas, which measures approximately 9 x 5 cm. There are other very small scattered spots of inpainting. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in good and stable condition and no further work is required.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Painted on Cabañal beach, Valencia in the summer of 1904, in Niños en la playa Sorolla evokes the innocence of childhood in his deftly observed and brilliantly executed depiction of two boys playing with a toy sailing boat by the edge of the sea. Omitting the horizon, and with only the glimpse of the head and shoulders of a single bather in the background the composition focuses firmly on the pleasure of leisure, the boys' carefree existence and the privilege of being able to wile away time by the sea. The identity of the two boys is not known, but the presence of the toy yacht in the composition suggests that they were not from the local community. Very likely they were spending time in Valencia as tourists, visiting with their families, the boat suggesting their more elevated status, a signpost pointing towards a privileged future. Such symbolism was surely not lost on the painting's first owner – the Conde de Heeren, who acquired the painting at Sorolla's exhibition of his work at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris in 1906 (fig. 1).  

One of a series of increasingly spontaneous and ever more luminous scenes of children on the beach at Valencia, the freedom of execution and liveliness of spirit that the work exhibits are qualities that go to the heart of Sorolla's aesthetic and account for the artist's enduring popularity. Sorolla's inclusion of children into his compositions in the early 1900s tended to make their presence subservient to the main social realist message. As the decade wore on, however, children came to play an ever-more central role, as Sorolla reduced or excluded other elements, in particular the fishermen and oxen that had been the dominant feature of his work during the 1890s.

Sorolla's use of children as subject matter was inspired by his growing family and the importance that he attached to domestic life, not least as a response to his own upbringing: he had been orphaned as a child and raised by relatives. His children María, Joaquín and Elena were born in 1890, 1892 and 1895 respectively, and although other than in family portraits they did not necessarily model for him for specific canvases, nonetheless his offspring were a repeated source of inspiration for a great number of his compositions.

Fig. 1. Photograph of the interior of Galerie Georges Petit at the time of Sorolla's exhibition there in 1906 showing the present work hanging on the lower row second from the left.

Fig. 2. Joaquín Sorolla, El bote blanco, (The White Boat), Jávea, 1905, Private Collection

Fig. 3. Photograph of Joaquín Sorolla in his studio showing the present work published in La Ilustración Artistica in 1906