Lot 11
  • 11

Armando Reverón (1889-1954)

700,000 - 900,000 USD
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  • Armando Reverón
  • Desnudo detrás de la mantilla
  • tempera, chalk and charcoal on burlap
  • 67 1/8 by 42 1/4 in.
  • 170.5 by 107.3 cm
  • Painted circa 1946.


Dr. Chris and Lucila Engels acquired from the artist circa 1946
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Latin American Art, November 20, 1989, lot 28, illustrated in color


Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Exposición Retrospectiva de Armando Reverón, July 1955, no. 236
Boston, The Institute of Contemporary Art, January 6-February 12, 1956; New Orleans, Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, February 26-March 12, 1956; Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, April 9-May 12, 1956; San Francisco, The Museum of Fine Arts, August 20-September 23, 1956; Washington, D.C, The Corcoran Gallery, October 10-November 4, 1956, Armando Reverón, no. 40
Caracas, Estudio Actual, Obras Inéditas de Armando Reverón, 1979
Caracas, Galería de Arte Nacional, Armando Reverón/Exposición iconográfica y documental en el centenario de su nacimiento, 1989


Juan Calzadilla, Armando Reverón. Sus Obras, Caracas, 1979, no. 370, p. 329, illustrated
Juan Calzadilla y Willy Aranguren, et. al., Reverón. 18 Testimonios, Caracas, 1979, illustrated; also illustrated in color on cover
Juan Carlos Palenzuela, Reverón: La Mirada lúcida, Caracas, 2007, p. 224, illustrated in color, p. 226, discussed 


This large complex work on burlap is in very healthy state. Given the artist's choice of burlap in this case, it is remarkable and surprising that the paint layer has survived so well. The painting seems to be cleaned. There does not appear to be any varnish on the surface and there do not seem to be any restorations. It is certainly a hard, if not impossible task to identify restorations given the changeable technique of the artist and the texture of the work. There are no reinforcements on the reverse. It is fair to say that despite some slightly uneven passages to the paint layer in the upper right, there are no visible restorations and the condition is extremely good. This condition report has been provided courtesy of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.
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.

Catalogue Note

In July 1955, shortly after the Armando Reverón's death, art historian Alfredo Boulton organized the first retrospective exhibition of his work. Numerous collectors from Caracas lent their work to the Museo de Bellas Artes for the show, which featured a total of 294 works. Six important works from 1938 to 1946 were lent by Chris and Lucila Engels of Curaçao, a Dutch island off the shore of Venezuela. Dr. Chris J.H. Engels, a modern art enthusiast and the founder of the Curaçao Museum, made several visits to the artist's home in Macuto in the 1940s. He had an eye for great art and he was one of the few non-Venezuelans to seriously collect Reverón's work. One of his last acquisitions was Desnudo detrás de la Mantilla, an attractive, striking and complex painting.

On a scholarship, a 23-year-old Reverón moved to Madrid and studied under the direction of several Spanish academic painters. He visited the Prado assiduously where he was particularly attracted to Goya's The Nude Maja ca. 1798, still a revolutionary painting after 100 years. He briefly traveled to nearby Segovia to study with the painter Ignacio Zuloaga, second only to Joaquín Sorolla in his depictions of traditional Spanish genre scenes. Reverón would maintain his interest in all things Spanish for the rest of his life and themes such as goyesque reclining nudes, women with Spanish fans and shawls appear throughout his career.

Desnudo detrás de la Mantilla, painted circa 1946, is a unique composition in which Reverón clearly pays homage to Spain in a witty yet subverted manner. The standing nude exhibits a peineta, an ornamental tortoise shell comb traditionally used by women in Seville for important occasions. A shawl shields the viewer from the model's nude body, though whether or not she is trying to display her nudity remains unanswered. It is, in fact, typical for the light lace Spanish shawl, or mantilla, to be placed over the peineta to cover one's hair and shoulders.

The mantilla in the model's hands was made by the artist with the help of Juanita, his lifelong companion and occasional model. The composition includes the Plaza Bolívar, the main square in the center of Caracas including the posts of a balustrade, street lamps and a passerby.  A striking photo taken by Victoriano de los Rios in the 1950's of the artist recreating his model's pose  shows other features like the Caracas Cathedral on the left and, surprisingly, even some parachutes in the sky.

Though predominantly painted in black over raw burlap, Desnudo detrás de la Mantilla shows faint touches of color throughout. There are yellows in the face and arms, reds in the peineta, cheeks, mouth, nipples, hands and toes, light browns in the lower part of the composition, white highlights in the middle and specks of blue in the mantilla. Without a doubt, this is one of the most important paintings by the Venezuelan master to have ever been offered at auction.