We are grateful to Fundación Arte Cubano for their assistance cataloguing this work.
In René Portocarrero’s artistic production—the city of Havana and the face of feminine beauty embodied by a mythic woman called Flora, became his constant and ever present muses. The myth of the haunting woman began when he was an impressionable boy of eight. He would often recall, years later when he had achieved great acclaim, how his numerous Flora compositions had emerged throughout the years from his childhood memory. In 1966, twenty-seven portraits of this imagined woman, always in profile, a spirit of nature like the goddess of flowers and spring Flora, were shown on exhibition in Havana. With the passage of time, Portocarrero, rendered her image in works on paper and paintings always re-inventing her abiding portrait. To the small boy, Flora was the young woman full of life, resplendent in costly jewels and dressed in the finest fashion whose passions titillated Cuba’s conservative society at the start of the 1920s and, who visited his home. The vivacious Flora Alonso was married to one of Cuba’s legendary sugar barons who killed her lover in order to avenge his honor. Portocarrero’s father became his and her lawyer as well. The scandalous affair played out in the press and Flora entered Cuban folklore. The dazzling Flora “portraits” of what is after all, an ideal, fascinated the artist perhaps and most importantly because they allude to a Cuban vision of femininity but also to the an universal and idyllic paradigm.