ANTONIO FABRÉS Y COSTA
1854 - 1938
LIGHTING THE LAMP
signed A Fabres lower right
oil on panel
77 by 64cm., 30 by 25in.
Mathaf Gallery, London (by 1984)
Purchased from the above
Caroline Juler, Les Orientalistes de l'école italienne, Paris, 1987, p. 126, catalogued & illustrated
Caroline Juler, Najd Collection of Orientalist Paintings, London, 1991, pp. 106-07, catalogued & illustrated
Eduardo Dizy Caso, Les Orientalistes de l'école espagnole, Paris, 1997, p. 83, catalogued & illustrated
London, The Mathaf Gallery, Spring Exhibition of Important Orientalist Paintings of the 19th Century, March 1984, illustrated on the front cover of the catalogue
The most likely setting for this painting is a mosque in Egypt. A man in scarlet robes lights the wick in one of the glass bulbs of a Damscene brass lamp. Other than the steps to the pulpit just visible in the background, the mosque interior is shrouded in darkness, putting the man's face and the lamp into strong relief. Indeed the sculptural qualities of the head and hand bear witness to Fabrés y Costa's early training as a sculptor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona.
In 1875 Fabrés y Costa was awarded a scholarship to complete his training in Rome. In Italy, he was deeply influenced by the work of other Spanish artists living in Rome at the time, including José Villegas and Mariano Fortuny whose Orientalist subjects had met with critical acclaim. Inspired by these contemporary artists and by his own travels to North Africa, he abandoned sculpture and started a successful career as a painter, focusing on Orientalist subjects. In 1903, Fabrés moved to Mexico as director of the National Fine Arts Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City, a post he held for five years.