Antes de la corrida (Before the Bullfight)
1863 - 1923
Antes de la corrida (Before the Bullfight)
oil on canvas, sold unframed
Unframed: 250 by 370cm., 98½ by 145¾in.
The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Blanca Pons Sorolla, who will be including it in the forthcoming Sorolla catalogue raisonné (BPS 829).
The following condition report has been prepared by Hamish Dewar Ltd., 13 and 14 Mason's Yard, St James', London, SW1Y 6BU:
UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE
The very large canvas is unlined and the turnover and tacking edges have been strengthened with a thin strip-lining. The overall structural condition is good and it is obviously most encouraging to find the canvas in it's original unlined state. There are, almost inevitably on a painting of this scale and age, some slightly uneven areas, particularly around the turnover edges and in the corners, but these are not unstable and could be easily resolved. There are other slight undulations which are likely to be as the result of the canvas having been rolled in the past due to it's size. While no further structural work is required for reasons of conservation, it may be felt that the existing stretcher could be replaced with a more robust, bespoke keyed wooden stretcher with horizontal as well as vertical cross batons.
The paint surface is also stable.
The varnish layers are quite uneven, particularly in areas corresponding to retouchings. The varnish layers are also discoloured and cleaning and revarnishing would undoubtedly be very beneficial and I would be very confident of a significant improvement in the overall appearance as a result of cleaning and revarnishing.
The removal of the existing retouchings during the cleaning process would also be beneficial as a number are visible in natural light, as well as under ultraviolet light, and many are clearly larger than is really necessary. Should they be removed, they could be replaced with more minimal inpainting, which would significantly reduce the amount of retouching on the paint surface.
Retouchings which are identifiable under ultraviolet light include a number in the lower left corner, retouchings around the turnover edges and in particular lines running down from the right side of the upper horizontal turnover edge into the brown pigments of the background, and within the archway over the figures in the upper left quadrant. The majority of these retouchings are consistent with the canvas having been rolled in the past. There is also a thin vertical line of retouching, approximately 21 cm in length, running down the left arm of the central toreador and three vertical lines in the lower left corner. There are other scattered retouchings.
There are some areas of entirely stable drying craquelure particularly in the black pigments of the figure's hats, which are as a result of the natural drying processes of the artist's materials, and are characteristic of the artist.
The very large painting is essentially in very good condition for a painting of this scale and would undoubtedly respond very well to minimal structural intervention as well as cleaning, restoration and revarnishing.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.
Estate of the artist (serie D, no. 34, as Los toreros. Plaza de toros de Valencia, inv. 1929)
Elena Sorolla García (daughter of the above)
Alberto Lorente Sorolla (son of the above; sale: Sala Alcolea, Madrid, 1987)
Sale: Edmund Peel y Asociados, 21 June 1990, lot 4
Sorolla was born and raised in Valencia, and his acute sensibility to the region and the local inhabitants is observed to electrifying effect in this monumental work. Depicting the minutes before the start of a corrida or bull fight, like footballers entering a stadium through the tunnel, the toreros (matadors, horseback-mounted picadors, and banderilleros), each sporting his iconic traje de luces (‘suit of lights’), discuss tactics as they prepare to take on their bovine opponents in the ring. The sense of anticipation and excitement is palpable. The contrast between the calm shade in the foreground and the scintillating sunshine and cheering crowds in the packed arena, serves to enhance the sense of tension and impending thrill and danger.
Antes de la corrida was painted circa 1900 in the Valencia bullring during a period of intense activity for Sorolla, whose professional fortunes were beginning to develop apace following the French State’s acquisition of La vuelta de la pesca (Return from Fishing) at the Paris Salon of 1895. In 1900 he received another major break when his Sad Inheritance!, depicting polio-stricken children on the beach at Valencia, won him the Grand Prix at the Universal Exposition in Paris. Although by now an artist of international repute whose work had been exhibited in London, Munich, Vienna, Berlin, and Scandinavia, and across the Atlantic in Buenos Aires and Chicago, it was increasingly his depictions of Valencian subjects that inspired his brush. Aware of his predilection for such motifs he commented 'I like going back to Valencia, and I keep on finding new 'subjects for studies' there.' (Carmen García in Sorolla, The Painter, London, 1989, p. 83). Indeed in July 1900 he was bestowed the honour of ‘favourite and praiseworthy son of the city’ by the Council of Valencia.
Bullfighting scenes are rare in Sorolla’s oeuvre; however, the artist returned to the subject on a grand scale Seville: The Bullfight, one of the monumental panels constituting the Vision of Spain (1913-18) commissioned by Archer Huntington for the Hispanic Society of America in New York.
The sketch in gouache for the present work is in the collection of the Museo Sorolla, Madrid (inv. 1.344).