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Annotated works

BALACA, Ricardo

(Lisbon, 1844-Aravaca, Madrid, 1880)

The Baile de Capellanes

Oil on tinplate

17,5 x 25,5 cm

c. 1860-1865

Romanticism, Realism and Impressionism (19th Century - Mid-20th Century)

N.° inv. 69/82

Acquired in 1942

The Café

Oil on tinplate

17,8 x 25,7 cm

c. 1860-1865

Romanticism, Realism and Impressionism (19th Century - Mid-20th Century)

N.° inv. 69/83

Acquired in 1942


BALACA, Ricardo on Online collection

Although Spanish artists did not often depict urban interiors they did focus their attention on the establishments in Madrid, already famous for the hustle and bustle of its street life, cafés and ballrooms. Spread all over the town, these attracted most of the social, intellectual and political activity of the capital city in the 19th century.

The first of these paintings represents a well-attended masked ball held at Salón Romero, better known as Salón de Capellanes [Chaplains' Salon] or Baile de Capellanes [Chaplains' Ball], located as it was on the street of the same name (now Maestro Victoria), very close to the Descalzas Reales monastery, and where the chaplains of the monastery resided. Often mentioned by Pérez Galdós in his works, this was one of the most famous ballrooms in 19th-century Madrid for which many musicians wrote scores, including the composer from Bilbao Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga. The picture leads us through the spacious interior of the premises, supported by graceful columns and decorated with large mirrors. Under the warm light of huge branched lamps, probably gas lamps, several couples wearing masks and disguises dance wildly.

The companion to this picture illustrates the quiet spacious interior of a café, also with high ceilings supported by columns, which has been identified as the Parnasillo at Café del Príncipe, located next to the Madrid theatre of the same name, today the Teatro Español. Several customers enjoy their drinks, alone or in lively gatherings around pedestal tables. As such places were frequented chiefly by men, only one woman appears to the right of the composition, her head covered in a hairnet.

The fashion sported by the gentlemen—top hats, abundant locks of short hair, shirts with pointed stiff collars and swallowtail bow ties—sets both scenes in the years 1860-1865. The gas lighting, widespread in houses and business premises in Madrid after 1860, supports this dating. The theatrical approach, the execution of the figures and the skill in placing small groups of moving characters in the pictorial space are the main features of Ricardo Balaca's oeuvre.

Indeed, Balaca devoted a great part of his career to historical compositions studded with figures, usually based on military and war subjects, which called for special skill in the introduction of masses of moving figures in extensive scenes. In the mid-19th century he became a graphic chronicler of the Carlist wars and a well-known painter of cityscapes, a motif that also appeared in many of the drawings and illustrations he produced for periodical publications of his time.  [J.L.D.]

Selected bibliography (The Baile de Capellanes):

Spanish Paintings of 18th & 19th Century : Goya and his Time .[Cat. Exp.]. Tokyo : The Seibu Museum of Art, 1987, pp. 174, 175 y 220, n.º 56. (Como obra de Antonio María Esquivel).

José Luis Díez. De Goya a Gauguin : el siglo XIX en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao: Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 2008, pp. 304-308, n.º 56, ad vocem.

José Luis Díez. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao : guía. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 2011 (1ª ed. 2006; ed. inglés; ed. francés; ed. euskera), pp. 108 y 109, n.º 75a, ad vocem.


Selected bibliography (The Café):

Spanish Paintings of 18th & 19th Century : Goya and his Time. [Cat. exp.]. Tokyo : The Seibu Museum of Art, 1987, pp. 176, 177 y 220, n.º 57 (Como obra de Antonio María Esquivel).

José Luis Díez. De Goya a Gauguin : el siglo XIX en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao: Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 2008, pp. 304-308, n.º 57, ad vocem.

José Luis Díez. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao : guía. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 2011 (1ª ed. 2006; ed. inglés; ed. francés; ed. euskera), pp. 108 y 109, n.º 75b , ad vocem.

Annotated works