MARIANO FORTUNY I MARSAL (Reus, Tarragona, 1838 - Rome, 1874).
"Mandolin player. Rome, 1861.
Oil on canvas.
Signed, dated and located in the lower left corner.
Labels of the Fundació Caixa de Pensions are attached to the back, due to the inclusion of this canvas in an anthological exhibition of the painter held in 1989 (Cultural Centre of the Fundació La Caixa, Barcelona).
Measurements: 68.8 x 44.5 cm.
In this oil painting, Fortuny's virtuosity is extreme, appreciable both in the tactile qualities and values and in the skilful modelling of the light which seems to give the figure three-dimensionality. The mandolin player, seated on a sturdy piece of furniture, plays his instrument while leaning dreamily against a wall whose floral wallpaper depicts a detailed interior with descriptive intent, a characteristic feature of one of the pioneers of house painting. The half-open mouth and melancholy eyes reveal that the mandolin player is singing as he plucks the strings. The expression is vivid, resolved with naturalism, combined with the meticulous and highly plastic reproduction of the leather gaiters, the armour and the blue stockings, under the elasticity of which the elasticity of the thighs and calves is transparent. The carving of the wood on the chest and the shine of the armour, as well as the spun textures of the Persian carpet, seal the whole of this interior that enraptures our senses. During his second stay in Rome, Fortuny frequently produced works featuring figures dressed in Italian folk costumes or medieval garb, such as this mandolin player. With these works the Catalan painter achieved unprecedented success among Spanish artists arriving in Italy.
Fortuny began his training at the municipal art school in Reus, and in 1850 he moved to Barcelona with his grandfather. There he continued his studies as a disciple of Domingo Talarn and enrolled at the School of Fine Arts, where his teachers were Pablo Milá, Claudio Lorenzale and Luis Rigalt. At the same time he attended Lorenzale's public school, which determined his inclination towards Romantic painting at this early stage. In 1858 he settled in Rome thanks to a scholarship, and attended the Accademia Chigi. In 1860 he visited Madrid, where he visited the Prado Museum and became interested in the work of Velázquez and Goya. Shortly afterwards he embarked on a tour of Europe, and finally returned to Rome for good. He attended classes at the French Academy of Fine Arts at the Villa Medici, and in 1861 he visited Florence and came into contact with the "macchiaioli". From then on he returned to Morocco and Paris, as well as travelling to Toledo, where he discovered the work of El Greco. In 1867 he exhibited in the studio of Federico de Madrazo, who became his father-in-law that same year. The following year he returned to Rome, and in 1870 his international fame was consolidated thanks to his exhibition at the Paris gallery of Goupil. During these years he settled in Granada, with the idea of tackling new themes with the greater freedom afforded by commercial and critical success. However, in 1872 he was forced to return to Rome, where he remained until his death. Mariano Fortuny is represented in the Prado Museum, the National Gallery in London, the Hispanic Society Museum in New York, the Palazzo Ruspoli in Rome, the Fine Arts Museums of Bilbao, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Boston and the National Art Museum of Catalonia, among many others.