Sorolla’s “Portrait of Isabel Bru” has arrived in Valencia. It will soon be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, and available to the public to view. Some six months ago, the Valencian government struck a deal when it paid just $60,000 at Christie’s for the Joaquin Sorolla painting.
Valencia’s Museum of Fine Arts is on fire. Following the recently announced acquisition of the Rudolf Gerstenmaier collection, another significant work will be displayed in the museum: Joaquin Sorolla’s Portrait of Isabel Bru.
For once, it is not part of a donation or bequest by a patron; this superb tactical move results from fancy footwork by the Generalitat Valenciana. A lesser-known fact is that the Valencian government travels the world bidding on auctions to bring back the work that should have been here in the first place. Sorolla’s Portrait of Isabel Bru was purchased by the Valencian Government at Christie’s auction in New York last October. This nearly 2.5-metre tall, 1-metre-wide oil on canvas was painted by Sorolla in his prime, in 1904.
The painting was purchased for a bargain low price (reports range from $60-65.000), and it recently arrived at the Museum of Fine Arts in Valencia, where it will be a part of a permanent exhibition. The announcement was made in October on the Facebook page of the Museum of Fine Arts in Valencia, but it took another six months for the painting to arrive, via an Air Iberia flight direct from JFK airport. Art lovers will have to wait a little longer – the painting will first need to be restored to its full glory before being displayed in the Museum.
Isabel Bru owned the portrait, which was a focal point in her living room for 27 years. It was inherited by her sisters, the only living heirs, after her death in 1931, and it made its way to the art market nine years later, in 1940, when it was purchased by a private collector. The painting changed hands several times before becoming the property of La Comunidad Valenciana last October, with the sole intention of becoming a permanent fixture in the artist’s hometown.
Isabel Bru was a prominent Spanish artist at the turn of the 20th century. She was a brilliant soprano singer who excelled in zarzuela, a Spanish version of opera that combines instrumental, vocal, and spoken parts on stage. Isabel Bru, who was born in 1974, made her debut at the Apollo Theatre in Madrid when she was only 20 years old, and she went on to become one of the leading figures on the Spanish stage over the course of her three-decade career.
The Portrait of Isabel Bru was purchased relatively cheaply given the author’s name, but it is still not on the same level as La Niña en La Playa (£1.4m in 2010) and Las Tres Hermanas En La Playa (£2,32m in 2015), also sold at Christies.
Even so, finding a Joaquin Sorolla painting for only $60,000 is extremely rare, almost unheard of. What is far more important, however, is that it underlines the fact that the Generalitat Valenciana is determined to undo a historic injustice by bringing works home from possibly its most famous son, and for the benefit of the people.
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