Lot 119
  • 119

Joaquín Sorolla

120,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • retrato de luisa martínez de tejeda (Portrait of Luisa Martinez de Tejeda)
  • signed and dated J. Sorolla 1907 lower right
  • oil on canvas
  • 90 by 121.5cm., 35½ by 47¾in. (oval)


Luisa Martínez de Tejeda (acquired from the artist)
Thence by descent to her daughter
Acquired from the above by the grandfather of the present owners


Bernardino de Pantorba, La vida y la obra de Joaquín Sorolla, Madrid, 1970, p. 207, no. 2003, catalogued


Original canvas. Apart from a 1mm spot of retouching visible under ultraviolet light to the corner of her right eye, 3 1mm spots on her breast, and a spot in the red draped in the lower left, some localised hairline craquelure, notably vertically in her right forearm, and some light surface dirt, this work is in very good original condition. Held in an oval gilt frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Like virtually all leading painters of the day, Sorolla turned to portraiture in order to secure a reliable financial income. What singled Sorolla's portraits out from those of his contemporaries, however, was the range of innovative compositional devices that he used to show off his sitters to emphasise their character and individuality and differentiate his work from those of his competitors.

In the present work, Sorolla paints Luisa Martínez de Tejada on a strikingly horizontal oval canvas. Sorolla's choice of this unusual decorative device suggests the sitter is contemplating her own reflection in a mirror, thus she is not presenting herself to the viewer, but to herself for her own contemplation – a tacit suggestion by the artist perhaps not only of her own self-satisfaction, but of portraiture as the ultimate exercise in vanity.

Luisa Martínez de Tejeda's surroundings reveal the mirror to be that of her dressing table in her boudoir. Back lit, the swagged curtain secured with a tie to reveal a window behind her, she sits erect on an upholstered Louis XVI style canapé as she rests her right wrist delicately on its scrolling wooden arm. The curling design of the elegant furniture reiterates the curve of the picture frame, a rhythm that is also taken up in the fall of the rich burgundy red velvet wrap that loosely surrounds her. Beautifully coiffeured and wearing a magnificent lace dress caught in at the waist with a pink silk cummerbund she holds up in her left hand a selection of charms attached to her necklace, including a fish, a heart and the hand of Fatima.

As well as his striking use of a horizontal oval format and the elaborate design that Sorolla worked out within those confines, the painting also reflects Sorolla's complete control of white and light. The subtle differences of the sitter's shimmering white dress, her white skin, and the diaphanous white of the lace curtains behind, form the centre of the composition. This impression of translucence is balanced by the burgundy of the vase in the background and the velvet drape, and the peach swagged curtain and the peach upholstery. The overall effect is that of an elaborate and masterfully integrated harmonious whole.

Sorolla was an instinctive portraitist, and from a young age had used his family and friends as models. But it was in 1895 at the National Fine Arts Exhibition in Madrid that he first publicly announced himself as a professional in the genre. There, as well as exhibiting And They Still Say Fish is Expensive, he also showed eleven portraits. Sorolla's increasingly innovative compositions combined with his consummate ability to manipulate colour ensured a hugely successful following. And as his reputation grew so did the demands upon him to paint likenesses of the great and the good, ranging from King Alfonso XIII of Spain to President Taft of the United States of America.