Details & Cataloguing

19th Century European Paintings


Ignacio Zuloaga
1870 - 1945
signed I. Zuloaga lower left
oil on canvas
176 by 120.5cm., 69¼ by 47½in.
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Estate of the artist; thence by descent to the present owner


Venice, Biennale, 1938
London, New Burlington Galleries, Ignacio Zuloaga, 1938-39
Madrid, Museo de Arte Moderno, Zuloaga, 1941
Barcelona, Sala Argos, Ignacio Zuloaga, 1942
Madrid, Ministerio de Educación Nacional, Un siglo de arte español. 1856-1956. Primer centenario de las exposiciones nacionales de Bellas Artes, 1955
Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao; Paris, Pavillon des Arts; Dallas, Meadows Museum; New York, Wildenstein Gallery; Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, Ignacio Zuloaga: 1870-1945, 1991, n.n., illustrated in the catalogue
Santillana del Mar, Fundación Santillana, Iturrino-Zuloaga. La mujer: inteligencia emocional, 1999, illustrated in the catalogue


Bernardino de Pantorba, Ignacio Zuloaga, Ensayo biogràfico y crítico, Madrid, 1944, no. 62
Enrique Lafuente Ferrari, La vida y el arte de Ignacio Zuloaga, Madrid, 1950, p. 245, no. 654, catalogued; pls. 128 & 129, illustrated 
Ed. Sarpe, ed., Los genios de la Pintura Española: Ignacio Zuloaga, Madrid, 1988, p. 12, illustrated
Enrique Lafuente Ferrari, The Life and Work of Ignacio Zuloaga, Barcelona, 1991, p. 524, no. 654, catalogued; pl. 51, illustrated (as Retrato de la Oterito en el camerino)

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1936, Zuloaga's depiction of the dancer Eulalia Franco - familiarly called La Bella Oterito - sitting in her dressing room is one of the most sexually suggestive portraits that he ever painted.

But for wearing a bullfighter's short cropped chaquetilla, a bouquet of flowers in her hair, and a pair of red satin high-healed shoes on her feet, Eulalia sits proudly naked at her dressing table as she turns to look teasingly at the viewer. Her supremely elegant and confident pose - the product of a colourful career on stage - belies any notion of her own sense of déshabillé. The velvet curtain pulled back to the left of the composition simultaneously alludes to the artist's debt to the Spanish Baroque, indicates Eulalia’s profession, and - peep-show-like in intent - allows the viewer the opportunity to glory in her titillating state of undress.

Painted in Paris, unusually for Zuloaga he depicts La Oterito in her dressing room, rather than his normal custom of painting the sitter in his studio. Despite the plain decoration of the room, however, the furnishings that surround her are quintessentially Spanish. She sits on her brightly coloured Spanish dress; covering the dressing table is a tablecloth of Spanish design, and behind her in the top left of the canvas is a bust length portrait of a bullfighter. More than just the furnishings and furbelows, however, Zuloaga also references his sitter’s and his own lineage, as well as the close nature of the relationship between model and artist.

The image of La Oterito reflected in the mirror on the dressing table is an implicit reference to Velázquez (fig. 1). Yet whilst in Velázquez' nude the model coyly hides her charms, in Zuloaga’s modern day version, La Oterito shows no such modesty. But over and above the shock of La Oterito's provocative pose, the particular scandal that surrounded Zuloaga's depiction of Eulalia Franco related to their past affair. Their illicit liaison is clearly alluded to in the red carnation that Eulalia holds in her right hand, as well as the suggestion of the artist's own presence in the portrait on the wall beyond, referencing Zuloaga in the bullfighting garb of his youth.

Zuloaga's painting of the present work marks the culmination of his paintings of the nude, a select but highly important body of work which spans a thirty year period (1906-36). The freedom to embark on the nude coincided with his first purchase of a studio in Montmartre in 1906, which allowed him a certain detachment and the opportunity to employ a professional model. That year he painted Gypsy Nude with Parrot, an upright canvas that owes a clear debt to Edouard Manet's painting of the same subject. He returned to the theme seven years later, but this time - with the model reclining - an interpretation closer to that of Gustave Courbet (fig. 2). Thereafter the climax of Zuloaga's six large-scale portraits of Marcelle Souty, one of his favourite models that he painted over a seven year period, was the deliciously brazen depiction of Mme Souty nude (fig. 3). A handful of other large scale nudes punctuate his output during the twenties and early thirties, but it was his painting of the present work that was especially audacious and proved particularly incendiary.     

Zuloaga himself was keenly aware of the potential controversy that his nudes elicited from the public, and was notably coy about exhibiting them in Europe. It was perhaps not surprising, therefore, that when he did first exhibit two of them in the major travelling exhibtion of his work that toured America in 1916-17 they brought forth protesting letters from visitors who found it impossible to see them without blushing. As a result, for his subsequent major exhibition in New York in 1925, the nudes were hung separately from the rest of the paintings to minimise any potential embarassment they might cause visitors.

Eulalia’s diminutive appellation ‘La Oterito’ derived from comparisons made of her to another leading dancer of the day Carolina 'la belle' Otero (1868-1965), who made her stage reputation in Paris in the role of an Andalusian gypsy and as a star at Les Folies Bergère. Eulalia likewise specialised in performing Spanish dances and songs, and in her free interpretation and exuberant delivery she not only made the most of her curvaceous form, but was widely viewed as technically more accomplished than her namesake. Although she attracted considerable attention within Spain, her reputation was made in performances abroad, where she garnered a huge following as the star attraction in shows across Europe, the USA and South America.

Nobel-Laureate Rubén Dario famously speculated on her exotic origins, suggesting that she was in fact Cuban. Familiar even to a London audience, when the present work was first exhibited in the major retrospective of Zuloaga's work at the New Burlington Galleries in 1938-9, it was her image that the gallery selected to feature on the poster advertising the show. As well as portraying Eulalia in the present work, Zuloaga also painted her clothed and executed a work on paper of her dancing naked now in the Museo de Bellas Artes, Cordoba (Lafuente Ferrari, nos. 655 & 656).

19th Century European Paintings