This canvas is one of the few remaining examples in the Museum of social realism, a theme Sorolla was to develop in the period 1890 - 1899. This genre was very popular in Europe and with its focus on the dramatic conditions of the lower social classes was a regular favourite in the Salons of the time, where subject matter with ‘history’ or narrative content was still considered necessary.
The painting shows four young prostitutes fast asleep in a third-class railway carriage under the watchful eye of their Celestina or procuress. Sorolla, however, pays more attention to solving strictly formal problems. One of the greatest achievements of the painting is the forced perspective of the composition which seems to ‘advance’ outwards so that although the subjects are almost all asleep, the viewer is ignored by them but still feels involved through the spatial attraction exerted by the composition itself.


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