The masterpiece by Julio Romero de Torres (Córdoba, 1874 – 1930) will finally stay in Almería. The Cosentino family, trustees of the Ibáñez Cosentino Art Foundation, has just acquired it from its previous owner, the PRASA group of Córdoba. This important painting has had, almost since its origin, an eventful life of changing locations and owners. One of its first owners in Spain was the director of ABC, Juan Ignacio Luca de Tena, and the painting was almost burnt during a popular uprising during the Second Republic that affected his residence in Seville, where it was hung.
In the 1990s, after decades of not knowing its whereabouts, it turned up in Venezuela, with several supposed owners litigating over it. Finally, after the legal proceedings were resolved, the painting was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London in 2002. There it was acquired by PRASA for a very high price, the highest ever paid for a work by the Cordovan painter at the time. Considered a very important work of Spanish artistic heritage, on its return to Spain the State declared it to be non-exportable, and it was subsequently declared an Asset of Cultural Interest by the Andalusian Regional Government.
This imposing 250 x 300 cm canvas, painted in tempera and oil, was conceived and executed by Romero de Torres between 1911 and 1912, intended to be exhibited at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts of 1912, in the hope of obtaining the highest official award of the time. The jury did not award it a medal, which led to the indignation of dozens of intellectuals, who raised their voices against the jury’s decision and held a banquet in honour of the Cordovan painter.
The painting treasures all the elements of the artist’s aesthetic and conceptual universe, a sort of masterly compendium of his telluric symbolism on the ancestral myths of Andalusia, in a centralised composition inspired by the paintings of the Italian Renaissance masters. In the centre, a beautiful young woman representing the copla is being crowned with laurel by two other sensual women, very representative of the painter’s refined fetishistic eroticism, who are standing on a baroque podium.
The moment is attended by a large group of people, including a nun and a priest dressed in a rich chasuble, perhaps to symbolise the “sacredness” of the event. This symbolist interplay between mysticism and worldly sexuality, in a kind of well thought-out and elaborate irreverence, is consubstantial with the painter’s sophisticated cultural and aesthetic thinking. Among the other attendants are well-known figures of the time, such as the bullfighter Machaquito, the dancer Pastora Imperio, the actress Adela Carbone and the painter himself, who portrays himself on the right of the composition. In the background, behind the church of Santa Marina and in front of a view of Cordoba, is a Holy Week procession with a Dolorosa, in which the small figures, in the manner of a classical frieze, cover the entire width of the painting.
Presentation in Olula del Río
The next location of the work will be the permanent collection of the future Museum of Contemporary Spanish Realism, which will be housed in the former Provincial Hospital of Almería, an important Renaissance building owned by the Provincial Council which has just been refurbished for this purpose.
This museum will open its doors next March. In the meantime, the painting, which has been deposited in the art collections of the Ibáñez Cosentino Art Foundation, will be on display in the museum facilities of the City of Culture in Olula del Río.
The public presentation of the work will take place on Thursday 3 November at 7 p.m. in the Ibáñez Museum in Olula del Río. Professor Javier Pérez Rojas, an expert on the work of Julio Romero de Torres, will speak at the event.
Finally, the audience will be able to enjoy a show of singing, guitar and dance by Arantxa Guerrero Velasco, Sol Ruiz Ramos and Rubén del Rosario. A show defined by its creator, Arantxa Guerrero, as “an exaltation of that genre so much ours as the copla in which each dance movement, guitar sound or voice evoke the brushstrokes that the artist Julio Romero de Torres reflected in his painting”.