Lot 37
  • 37

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • Viejo castellano sirviéndose vino (The Old Man of Castille) 
  • signed and dated lower right: J. Sorolla B 1907 
  • oil on canvas
  • 82 1/4 by 41 1/4 in.
  • 209 by 105 cm


Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo (acquired in 1909 from the New York Exhibition through the Elizabeth G. Gates Fund for $2,400);
By whom sold, New York, Parke-Bernet Galleries, 14 October 1943, lot 63;
Private Collection, Madrid, by the mid-1960s;
Thence by descent in the family;
By whom anonymously sold (“Property from a Private Collection”), London, Sotheby’s, 10 December 2014, lot 51, for $305,145;
There acquired.


London, Grafton Galleries, Exhibition of Paintings by Senor Sorolla y Bastida, 1908 (as The Glass of Wine);
New York, The Hispanic Society of America; Buffalo, Fine Arts Academy; Boston, Copley Society of Art: Paintings by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, Exhibited by the Hispanic Society of America, 8 February - 11 May 1909, no. 89 (New York); no. 61 (Boston and Buffalo) (as Viejo castellano / Old Castilian);
Toronto, Canadian National Exhibition, 1922;
Dallas, The Texas Fine Art Association, 1923;
Toledo, The Toledo Museum of Art, 1928;
Dayton, The Dayton Art Institute, 1930.


A. de Beruete, C. Mauclair, H. Rochefort, L. Williams, E. Cary, J.G. Huneker, C. Brinton and W.E.B. Starkweather, Eight Essays on Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, New York 1909, vol. I, p. 295, cat. no. 89, reproduced (as Viejo castellano);
Catalogue of Paintings by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, exhibited by The Hispanic Society of America, exhibition catalogue, New York 1909, cat. no. 89, reproduced p. 92 (as Viejo castellano / Old Castilian);
“Joaquín Sorolla-y-Bastida: His Wonderful Collection of Paintings at the Albright Gallery,” in Academy Notes, April 1909, vol. IV, p. 185, cat. no. 11, reproduced p. 182 (as An Old Castillian);
C. Brinton, “Two Great Spanish Painters: Sorolla and Zuloaga,” in The Century Magazine, May 1909, p. 31, reproduced (as The Old Castillian);
T.R. Ibarra, “The American Success of a Great Spanish Painter,” New York 1909, p. II562, reproduced (as An Old Castillian);
“In Memoriam: Joaquín Sorolla,” in Academy Notes, July-December 1923, vol. XVIII, p. 77, cat. no. 2;
B. de Pantorba, La vida y obra de Joaquín Sorolla, Madrid 1970, p. 190, cat. no. 1622 (as Viejo Castellano sirviéndose vino);
Joaquín Sorolla, 1863-1923, exhibition catalogue, Madrid 2009, p. 381, reproduced fig. 271;
Sorolla and America, exhibition catalogue, Dallas 2013, p. 302, cat. no. 32, reproduced;
Sorolla y Estados Unidos, exhibition catalogue, Madrid 2014, p. 350, reproduced;
J.L. Colomer, B. Pons-Sorolla, and M.A. Roglán, Sorolla in America: Friends and Patrons, Dallas 2015, p. 165, reproduced p. 168.


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work is in beautiful condition. The paint layer is clean and varnished. The canvas is unlined. It is originally made from two pieces of canvas joined horizontally about 12 inches from the bottom edge. This join is clearly visible, but shows no signs of movement or damage. There is one structural repair on the reverse addressing a very thin vertical break in the canvas in the background of the left side, which measures about 14 inches. A few of the separation cracks and some of the grainy texture in the paint layer has been retouched on the left side above the hand. Some original pigment in the figure reads strongly under ultraviolet light, but this does not correspond to retouching. Almost all of the retouches are on the far left side. The picture should be hung in its current condition.
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

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida’s impressive life-sized Viejo castellano sirviéndose vino (The Old Man of Castille) was painted in 1907, a particularly successful and productive year for the artist’s figural painting.  This compositional series can be divided into themes: portraits of Spanish royals, members of Sorolla’s family and, as with the present work, depictions of regional people.  Sorolla began the series in El Pardo, north of Madrid, and later Segovia, while his daughter María recovered from tuberculosis, before traveling further north to Léon, where he made extensive oil sketches and drawings of local life.  These studies shaped the present work and others of the period, which demonstrate the artist’s interest in ethnography and variations in Spain’s regional dress, customs, and culture.  The “old man” of the present work is enrobed by multiple layers of a heavy brown cloak— with textured swaths of paint and subtle tonal shifts suggesting its rough-spun cloth—which frames his grey stubbled and sun-reddened skin, as a bandaged hand emerges to pour wine from a green and yellow glazed clay pitcher.  The dark, earthy tones of the man’s costume stand against the white plaster wall, the bright sun casting the shifting shadow of an unseen tree. Sorolla’s expressive brushwork, impressionistic shifts of light and shade, and cropping of the compositional space suggest both a casually observed moment of daily life and careful study.  The present work directly informed Sorolla’s larger composition Leonese Peasants (1907, The Hispanic Society of America, New York, fig. 1), in which a similar cloaked figure stands among a group of market-goers, each individual serving as a realist portrait linking regional traditions and contemporary Spain. 

Beyond his facility with a paintbrush, Sorolla was also an astute businessman, finding success at international art competitions in Paris and London which led him to a series of well received exhibitions in both Europe and the United States. Viejo castellano sirviéndose vino was featured in one of the first of these exhibitions, Sorolla’s one-man show at London’s Grafton Galleries in 1908.   The following year, philanthropist Archer M. Huntington invited the artist to exhibit at The Hispanic Society of America, the institution he founded in New York City.  On opening day in February 1909, the present work joined 355 other paintings by the artist on view for four weeks, during which 170,000 visitors purchased 28,000 copies of the catalogue.  While over the course of the New York exhibition Sorolla sold 150 paintings, Viejo castellano sirviéndose vino travelled to the Albright Art Gallery on the invitation of its director Charles M. Kurtz who anticipated the show would “be worth traveling hundreds of miles to see and study” (the exhibition’s final venue was The Copley Society of Boston) (“Joaquin Sorolla-y-Bastida, A Modern Master,” Academy Notes, vol. IV, no. 10, March 1909, p. 172). Though a smaller show, the huge crowds remained, with a local newspaper reporting “never in the history of the gallery has there been such an attendance at any exhibition.  Throngs are in the gallery at all hours and many persons make almost daily visits there” (“Last Week of Sorolla,” Buffalo Morning Express, April 5, 1909, as quoted in Blanca Pons-Sorolla, “Sorolla and America,” Sorolla and America, exh. cat, Meadows Museum, Dallas; The San Diego Museum of Art, 2014, p. 22).  As testified to by Kurtz (and illustrated by a contemporary photo of the installation (fig. 2) Sorolla’s work had never before been so beautifully displayed “with exceedingly liberal spacing… and where the pictures are grouped together, the arrangement is such that each work appears to be enhanced by juxtaposition with the others” (“Joaquín Sorolla-y-Bastida: His Wonderful Collection of Paintings at the Albright Gallery,” Academy Notes, April 1909, vol. IV, no. 11 p. 163).  Notably, Kurtz, explained “one cannot fail to be impressed by the painting, “An Old Castilian,” hanging on the marble doorway in the north wall…. This is a work as strong, as realistic, and as typically Spanish as anything painted by Velásquez.  It is one of the great works of the collection” and unsurprisingly soon entered the permanent collection for the Albright Art Gallery (“Joaquín Sorolla-y-Bastida: His Wonderful Collection of Paintings at the Albright Gallery,” p. 185).  

Beyond its impressive technique and scale, Viejo castellano sirviéndose vino was a particularly apt selection for an American institution.  In its subject of a humble figure absorbed in a daily task, the portrait’s theme appealed to an American public used to paintings of rural individualism in contemporary European and American art.  At the same time, as Kurtz recognized, the monumental portrait of the common man connected Sorolla to the foundational giants of Spanish art history, notably Velásquez — whose seventeenth-century experiments in realism through his genre portraiture, such as his Menippus of circa 1638, had reinvigorated other Spanish artists seeking ways to communicate the essence of their country (Joaquín Sorolla 1863-1923, exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado, 2009, p. 380-1. fig. 3).  Aptly, when illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, the present work was accompanied by a discussion both of Sorolla’s inheritance of Old Master traditions and his modern spirit of “sincerity and actuality and sympathy” which made his “rendering of Spanish life at once so beautiful and so robust, establishing our belief that not only are they of vital interest now, but of a value which shall palpitate in far futurity” (Leonard Williams, “The Art of Joaquín Sorolla,” Catalogue of Paintings by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, exh. cat., 1909,  p. 43).  Indeed, Viejo castellano sirviéndose vino helped secure the artist’s international reputation, the image seen as both specifically Spanish and universally human, a theme the artist would expand in his epic series of celebrated murals, the Vision of Spain, which he painted for The Hispanic Society just four years later.

We are grateful to Blanca Pons Sorolla for her assistance in cataloguing this work, which will be included in her forthcoming Sorolla catalogue raisonné (BPS 1880).