Since the beginning of the nineties Sorolla had started to acquire prominence in one of the areas of painting that most prestige and profits brought him: portraiture. Although Sorolla himself exclaimed on more than one occasion, not without a degree of sarcasm, “Me, a painter of portraits?!”, and although this area was considered by many as of little importance and even superficial, the truth is that Sorolla can be considered as one of the most important portraitists of that time. The great figures in political, social and cultural life posed before the artist’s special gaze.
The identity of the sitter in this portrait has been subject to considerable conjecture. Perhaps the most plausible theory until now was suggested by Francesc Fontbona who thought it could be Manuel Bartolomé Cossío, whom Sorolla also painted in 1905 and 1908.
However, in a series of slides taken precisely on the occasion of the centenary exhibition, the one that corresponds to this work is entitled, Conde de Casal. Estudio, (Count Casal: Study), which forces us to seriously contemplate the new possibility that Manuel Escrivá de Romaní y Quintana, Count Casal, is the person portrayed.
Sorolla made another portrait of Count Casal in 1904, and for this one, moreover, he made a study of the head. Although the sitter in these pictures used glasses (a small lorgnette) and had a larger moustache, he bears a very strong resemblance to the man in the portrait presented here.