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Sorolla masterpiece study offered at Bonhams 19th Century Art sale
Study for La vuelta de la pesca by Sorolla. Estimate £300,000-400,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A study for Joaquín Sorolla’s landmark masterpiece, La vuelta de la pesca (Return from fishing) leads Bonhams 19th Century European, Victorian and British Impressionist Art on Wednesday 14 March in London. It is estimated at £300,000-400,000.

Sorolla gave the study to one of his close friends, Doctor Luis Soler y Soto. He bequeathed it to his son Luis Soler Puchol who in turn gave it to his godson. The work, therefore, has been in private hands ever since its creation.

Painted during the summer of 1894 at Valencia, the study is one of 16 known preparatory oil sketches for Sorolla's celebrated painting. He executed La vuelta de la pesca specifically for the Paris Salon of 1895, where it was a great success. Awarded a second class gold medal, the highest accolade available for a work by a foreign artist, it was then bought by the French State to hang in the Musée du Luxembourg, Paris (it can now be found in the Musée d’Orsay).

In addition to establishing Sorolla’s name internationally, La vuelta de la pesca also consolidated his reputation in his native Spain. It has long been seen, not least by the artist himself, as a watershed in the development of his art, crystalizing his vision and heralding the onset of his mature style.

The study for sale at Bonhams depicts a drover, whose job it was to steer the oxen as they pulled fishing boats out of the sea and up the beach. In the finished work, the figure occupies a key space in the picture’s composition, balancing the fisherman in the boat dismantling the billowing sails on the right hand side of the canvas.

Bonhams Head of 19th Century Paintings, Charles O’Brien said, “Studies for La vuelta de la pesca are of great importance. They are justifiably considered finished works in their own right, and there are several in public collections. It is hard to overstate the significance of La vuelta de la pesca to Sorolla’s career and I anticipate a lot of interest in this study which has never before appeared on the market.”

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