Doctor Francisco Rodríguez de Sandoval1906. Oil on canvas, 104.5 x 104.5 cm.
The doctor poses in an armchair, crossing his legs and turning to look forward with a lively expression concentrated in his intelligent gaze. He looks about forty years old and wears a gray suit with a vest and gloves of the same color. His brightly lit figure stands out against a neutral gray background that darkens considerably at his back and appears to reflect the light from a gilded frame.
Doctor Francisco Rodríguez de Sandoval was one of the closest friends of this painter, who had a special relationship with doctors throughout his life. As a young man, Sandoval had been an assistant to another of Sorolla’s friends -the eminent Valencian psychologist, Luis Simarro (1851-1921)- at the El Rosario Sanatorium on the outskirts of Madrid. A free thinker, he was a member of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza along with one of his classmates, the famous scientist Nicolás Achúcarro (1880-1918). He collaborated with Sorolla’s family physician, Dr. Medinaveitia, and was friends with writer Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958), as well as a sincere friend of Sorolla himself. Sandoval accompanied this Valencian artist on some of his travels around Spain during those years, and he replaced Medinaveitia as his family doctor in 1919, attending Sorolla during the paralysis that undermined his health in his final years.
This portrait of Doctor Rodríguez de Sandoval from the Museo del Prado was painted at a particularly fecund moment in Sorolla’s activity as a portrait painter, when he painted some of his most outstanding likenesses, also in a markedly quadrangular format. This is also the period when Sorolla most sincerely interiorized the Spanish tradition of portraiture through Velázquez, and here, he applies those lessons with a radically modern mastery by resolving the image with various ranges and shades of a single color to compose a symphony of grays of extraordinary pictorial elegance.
The confident lines with which Sorolla defines the figure, his abridged and economic technique -he rubs a rinsed brush across the surface of the canvas to suggest different textures and planes of light- and the astonishing mastery with which he situates the figure in space by intensely darkening the left half of the wall behind him, make this portrait unquestionably one of the finest he painted in those years (Text drawn from Díez, J. L.: El siglo XIX en el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, pp. 372-374).