Audio: Deborah Coy
Antonio María Fabrés y Costa (Spanish, 1854-1938)
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Antonio María Fabrés y Costa (Spanish, 1854-1938)

The Guard

Antonio María Fabrés y Costa (Spanish, 1854-1938)
The Guard
signed and dated 'Antonio Fabrés/Julio 89' (lower left); inscribed, dated and signed ‘Empiezo este cuadro el 6 Octubre 1887./A Fabres' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
59¼ x 33½ in. (150.5 x 85.1 cm.)
Sabih Mahmoud Shukri (1982-2011) until 1985.
with Aldbase International Ltd., London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.

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Lot Essay

Antonio Fabrés y Costa came from a family of artists, predominantly sculptors. In 1875, the provincial government of Barcelona awarded him a scholarship to complete his training in sculpture in Rome. During his sojourn in the Eternal City, Fabrés became deeply impressed by the painting of Mariano Fortuny, and like Fortuny, subsequently abandoned his chisel for a brush. Fabrés was taken with the exoticism of Fortuny’s orientalist subjects and with paintings like the present work, he established a style which was to dominate his oeuvre during his twelve year stay in Rome. In 1892, the artist settled in Paris, where he became part of a coterie of Spanish painters who had moved there. He found great commercial success throughout Europe because of his extraordinary technique. One of his paintings, Offrande à la Vièrge, was exhibited with a magnifying glass in order that the precision of the brushwork could be better appreciated. In 1902, at the request of the President, he moved to Mexico and had a series of successful exhibitions. He moved back to Rome in 1907, and lived there for the remainder of his life.

While the figures and the costumes of Fabrés’ oriental compositions are based on his knowledge of the paintings of Fortuny, he also drew on elements from other artists who had traveled in North Africa. However, the interior used in the present work is directly inspired by the artist’s personal knowledge of the interiors of the Alhambra Palace in Granada.

The bright coloring of the tiles and the luxurious fabrics of the guard’s garments well serve the precieuse technique for which Fabrés became so sought after. However, but the artist’s fundamental training as a sculptor is clearly demonstrated in the monumental central figure and the well-balanced composition. The lantern and column help to define the sense of space in the foreground, which is softened by the varying depths of field achieved by the verdant garden beyond.

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