Nude Boy on the Beach at Portici1874. Oil on panel, 13 x 19 cm.
This work was painted in the village of Portici, near Naples, where Fortuny spent the summer of 1874 with his family. There, he worked outdoors, painting sea scenes for the first time. An experienced painter of nudes, he captured the child’s anatomy directly in paint and with extraordinary precision. His choice of postures successfully transmits the child’s pleasure under the warm sun and the light shining on different parts of his or her body with touches of blue, green and pink. Resolved with rapid, loose brushstrokes that contrast with the finely finished nude, the work denotes a very new approach to painting outdoors the same year that the first impressionist exhibition was held. In its composition, with the right leg extended and the left folded over it, this figure recalls the famous Hellenist Hermaphrodite from the Borghese Collection (Musée du Louvre) of which there is a bronze copy at the Museo del Prado (E223). While less marked, there is also a certain ambiguity about the present figure’s sex.
This may be the most successful of all Fortuny’s paintings from Portici. It was acquired by Ramón de Errazu at the sale of the Fortuny Atelier in Paris for 6,900 Francs. Errazu also had another painting on the same subject, which is even smaller. That work’s dimensions coincide with those of another nude with the same title, which shows a nude child reclining diagonally and facing the viewer (Text drawn from Barón, J.: El siglo XIX en el Prado, Museo del Prado, 2007, pp. 306-307).