Part of a vast gallery of personalities rendered by the naturalistic painter Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, the portrait of his brother Rafael stands out as one of the most representative of the artist’s works. The large canvas and full body depiction of the figure differentiate this work from most of the pieces produced by the painter. The repainting of the signature and date (in the lower right-hand corner) point to the existence of the work from at least 1890, the date of its exhibition at the Salon of the Palace of Industry, in Paris.
Featuring an austere, Spanish-style tone , the formal register, conveyed by the full evening dress, top hat, gloves and Legion d’Honneur medal, is contrasted by the relaxed posture of the sitter, cigarette in hand, whose lively, questioning gaze is captured with remarkable realism. Next to him lie various sheets of paper, including a proof copy of his humorous publication O Antonio Maria, recognisable by its masthead, with which Columbano sporadically collaborated.