Julio Romero de Torres

Portrait of Raquel Meller, 1910.
Oil and tempera on canvas.
179 x 117 cm.

Provenance: private collection, Córdoba.


The interesting portrait studied here presents the famous cupletist Raquel Meller wearing the sober feminine clothing typical of Spanish Holy Week: with a long black dress, comb and lace mantilla – which allows the painter to recreate his games of transparencies with great virtuosity.

From a humble family, Raquel Meller (1888 – 1962) made her debut as a cupleist and actress in 1907 in various theaters in Barcelona and Madrid. Her first successes came at the beginning of the following decade, when she was portrayed by Romero de Torres – in anticipation of other painters such as Sorolla, who later immortalized her. As a result of his appearance in the film The Harlequins of Silk and Gold (1919), Meller achieved unprecedented international recognition, which led to his later transfer to Paris and Hollywood (where he would shoot several films). From his musical repertoire, it is worth highlighting Agua que no you have to drink and Mala entraña, composed by Martínez Abades; El relicario, by Oliveros, Castellvi and Padilla; and La violetera, by Montesino y Padilla. It is undoubtedly paradoxical that we find another portrait of Meller, attacked by Romero de Torres three years later, where the model is captured with an erotic intention diametrically opposed to the painting presented here. We are referring to the work entitled La venus de la poesía (Fig. 3) –conserved in the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum14– where the cupletista is lightly covered with the same mantilla, although her naked body is explicitly exposed. In this double portrait, the model is accompanied by her husband, the Guatemalan writer Enrique Gómez Carrillo.