María Teresa Moret1901. Oil on canvas, 111 x 88 cm.
Representative of Sorolla’s fully mature period, this work is also one of the finest female portraits he ever executed. The artist knew the sitter very well, as she was the wife of one of his closest friends, whose portrait he would, in turn, paint the following year. The amiable frankness with which they related to each other, expressed by the artist in his dedication, and his recognition of the lady’s distinction and culture led Sorolla to capture her elegant dignity and kindness with great naturalness. María Teresa Moret y Remisa (1850– 1929) was the daughter of Segismundo Moret y Quintana and Concepción Remisa y Rafo, both of whom had been portrayed by Federico de Madrazo during his finest period (Museo del Prado, P-4466 and P-4473). In 1875, she married her cousin, Aureliano de Beruete y Moret (1845–1912). A cultured lady, she frequently accompanied her husband on his prolonged summer travels around Europe at a time when he was more intensely dedicated to painting. They were the parents of Aureliano de Beruete Moret y Moret, a fine art specialist and an outstanding historian who became director of the Museo del Prado and was, in turn, portrayed by Sorolla in 1902, thus completing the best collection of family portraits in Spain at that time, now integrally housed in the Prado. The Museum benefitted from María Teresa Moret’s generosity when she donated the portraits of her parents, herself, and her husband in keeping with his will, as well as an excellent collection of landscapes by Beruete himself. Depicted in a pose her husband would also adopt in his later portrait, she sits in an armchair, leaning on one of its arms, in threequarter view. She wears an elegant embroidered suit adorned with a few jewels, a pear-shaped pearl pendant, a gold wedding ring and earrings. The fact that she is not wrapped in her fur stole—which appears arranged around her—and has removed her glasses brings out the direct and frank character of her pose. This is accentuated by the position of her head, turned to face the viewer almost directly, and the serenity of her gaze, which is in keeping with the maturity of a half-century of life. The painter avoided any element that would distract from the figure and thus resolved the background in a very sober fashion, with diluted paint that lets the weave of the canvas show through in some places so that the highlights are generated directly by the canvas’s white priming. The light is concentrated on the figure, whose execution, especially the quality and reflections of the silk and the transparent gauze of the dress, recalls the loose resolution in Goya’s mature portraits—particularly the lace, where rapid sweeping brushstrokes of black and grey drag the dry paint, allowing the underlying white of the cloth to show through. The same happens with the surrounding fur and with the fine gold chain, rendered with very determined and long, linear brushstrokes that bring out the quality of the execution. Moreover, the figure’s elegant self-restraint is reminiscent of the dignity of Velázquez’s models, and is also in keeping with a sober colour scheme characteristic of the Spanish tradition of portraiture, here rendered in fine matte tones. This portrait is the finest of Sorolla’s female likenesses except for those of his wife, Clotilde, which have a different character. Its extraordinary naturalness did not go unnoticed by critics, nor by certain notable writers interested in painting. Emilia Pardo Bazán, the most outstanding Spanish naturalist writer, an art lover, a friend of the model, and, like María Teresa Moret, a cultured aristocrat, was aware of the difficulties that conventions generally imposed on artists painting female portraits. She pointed out Sorolla’s skill in the ‘extraordinary likeness, capturing the face’s placid expression of goodness, the harmonious toilette, and the absolute mastery with which the black Chantilly lace and white silk lining are painted.’ And Juan Ramón Jiménez, also a poet who had exquisite taste—like Pardo Bazán, he would later sit for Sorolla—praised the canvas as ‘noble offspring of distinction and melodies.’ It was also acclaimed by critics at the 1901 National Fine Arts Exhibition in Madrid, where it competed with fifteen other paintings, earning Sorolla a medal of honour. (Barón, J.: Joaquín Sorolla, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2009, pp. 286-288).