Medium: Oil on board
Size: 96 x 79.5 cm
Signed: lower left: F. Beltran Masses
Estate of the artist; his wife Sra. Irene Narezo de Beltran; her heirs, Barcelona.
Federico Beltran Masses: un pintor en la corte de Hollywood, Museu Diocesà, Barcelona, 2011, ills., p.120; Federico Beltran Masses: Castizo cosmopolita, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, 2012, ills., p.152.
Possibly Exposition d’œuvres F. Beltran Masses, Chez Trotti, Paris, 21 May – 14 June, 1931, no. 16; Possibly Paintings by Federico Beltran Masses, New Burlington galleries, London, 1938, no. 72; Federico Beltran Masses, Blue Nights and Libertine Legends, Stair Sainty Gallery, London, Oct-Nov 2012, ills., no. 16, pp.120-123.
Beltran Masses was born in Cuba in 1885 to a Spanish army officer, Luis Beltran y Fernández Estepona, and Mercedes Masses y Olives, whose mother’s family had owned land there for some two hundred years. The island had been part of the Spanish empire for almost four centuries but Spanish rule was already threatened by an increasingly popular independence movement. Cuba, once the jewel in Spain’s American empire, was lost in 1898 following an American invasion that transformed its economy from one dependent on agriculture to the play ground of the wealthy, new and old. By the 1920s Havana, whose economy had been boosted by American prohibition and the construction of luxury hotels, was known to some as the “Paris of the Caribbean”. Beltran’s parents had left the island for Barcelona in 1892 when he was seven and he seems never to have returned but his mother’s memories of the island and its exotic landscape were not forgotten and may have inspired the artist’s portrayal of this tropical paradise.
Here a nude blonde haired woman is portrayed three quarter length, her right arm curved loosely around a column of grapes and pomegranates while two colourfully plumed parrots are seated on a branch behind. She stands against a night sky partly hidden behind palm trees confirming the tropical location. Unlike the later Tropical, the woman is clearly of European descent, an alien figure in this exotic landscape.