A piece from the National Exhibition of Fine Arts in 1926, La visita del obispo (The Bishop’s Visit) uses an arrangement very typical in José Gutiérrez Solana’s paintings: the protagonists sit in a semi-circle around the figure who is the focus of the scene, so a kind of open space – the other half of the circle – is left empty in the foreground, through which there is communication between the characters and the viewer. This set-up is reminiscent – perhaps not iconographically but certainly conceptually – of the Mediaeval Christ in a mandorla, an element which, like Solana’s semi-circle, seems to protect the central figure of the composition. This layout is very usual in Solana’s works, also being used in La vuelta del indiano (The Return of the Indian, 1924), Reunión de botica (The Meeting at the Pharmacy, circa 1934), and even in the famous La tertulia del Café de Pombo (The Gathering at the Café de Pombo, 1920). The lighting is artificial, coming from a spotlight at the top of the picture, out of sight of the viewer, and contributes to the feeling of this example of provincial secular customs being frozen in time, like the shadows of the figures themselves, thrown onto the yellowing paintings on the wall.
Paloma Esteban Leal