Medium: Oil on linen
Size: 140 x 190 cm
Signed: lower right: F. Beltran Masses
Estate of the artist; his wife Sra. Irene Narezo de Beltran; her heirs, by descent, Barcelona.
Federico Beltran Masses y la Exposicion National de Bellas Artes MCMXV, Madrid, 1915, pp.27, 54, 58; Federico Beltran Masses, Estrella, 1920, ills., no. 6.
Exposición F. Beltran Masses, Salón Parés, Barcelona, 1914, no. 8 as Retrato de Mirabella; Federico Beltran Masses, Estrella, 1920, ills., no. 6; Federico Beltran Masses: Castizo cosmopolita, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, 2012, ills., p.69; Federico Beltran Masses, Blue Nights and Libertine Legends, Stair Sainty Gallery, London, Oct-Nov 2012, no. 2, pp.38-41.
La Mirabella marks a turning point in Beltran Masses’ young career as he moves away from painting the rural life of Catalonia to concentrate on portraiture and dreamlike subjects in which women play a central role. Mirabella, possibly the artist’s wife, represents a deliberate tribute to Manet whose Olympia also wears shoes and a single bracelet, thus breaking the established conventions of the painted nude. Beltran Masses was also a great admirer of Goya – the French government appointed him curator of the Goya centenary exhibition commemorating the artist’s death in Bordeaux in 1928 – and was certainly familiar with the Maja Desnuda, which also shows a young, nude woman lying on a silk covered canapé.
Manet’s Olympia neither smiles nor flirts with the viewer; there is no pretence that she is the artist’s lover. Mirabella’s faint smile, however, suggests otherwise. Beltran’s title, La Mirabella, loosely means ‘the beautiful view’. Though she is no mere object, the young woman’s languorous pose is one of intimacy and ease.
Beltran’s ‘grand statement of a nude’ was described in a 1915 book published to defend the painter from his conservative critics as ‘Upon a tapestry, which covers an aristocratic divan, reposes, in sweet and sensual ecstasy, an undressed woman. Slippered golden feet and the silkiness of the nudity are the most enchanting expression of elegance and grace.’ [i]
[i] Arturo Mori in El Pais, as found in Federico Beltran Masses y la Exposicion National de Bellas Artes MCMXV, Madrid, 1915, p.54. Translation from the Spainish our own.