Photo credit: College of Optometrists
I wonder if Art Detective could help identify the sitter of this intriguing portrait by José Buzo Cáceres (active 1830–1870), held at the College of Optometrists.
The gentleman may have been sensitive to light, or a follower of fashion in new "railway spectacles", but why did the artist choose to feature the eyewear so prominently in the composition, and obscure the gaze of the sitter?
In November 2013 the mysterious subject was explored by the College of Optometrists' curator Neil Handley in a fascinating article for the PCF newsletter. To read the article, please go to: http://tinyurl.com/qjymmdj
Additionally, as the NICE record for this work states: 'Born in Malaga, very little is known about the Spanish painter José Buzo Cáceres.' It would be great if Cáceres' birth or death date could be identified. More biographical details of the artist, if discovered, could conceivably then lead on to other information about this particular artwork.
This discussion is now closed. The portrait has been re-dated to 1839. The discussion has not established with certainty the identity of the sitter; however, the discussion thread contains very feasible suggestions as to whom it might depict, as well as greater insights into the art world in Málaga in the second quarter of the 19th century. Art UK’s record has been updated and the new information will be visible on the website in due course.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this discussion. To those viewing the discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.
This is odd. A portrait of a Mr Nathaniel Olds done in the USA in 1837 by Jeptha Homer Wade.
Talk about collective consciousness! Surely neither artist or sitter could be aware of the other? If it wasn't for the wart on this chaps face, they could almost be the same person. Apparently the specs were to protect against Argand lamps that burned whale oil.
Another example of a nearly identical painting is this portrait by Rubens Peale of his brother Rembrandt Peale.
Both paintings indicate the strong magnification of the lenses by enlarging the corner of the eye.
There is a discussion on the glasses in this painting, with various visual references (also in the comments), here:
Este pintor es antepasado mio y sus datos biográficos son conocidos en el ámbito familiar.
Hola Guillermo, por favor, publique todo lo que sabe sobre el artista.
José Buzo Cáceres nació en Santa Marta de los Barros (provincia de Badajoz) en 1847 y murió en Madrid en 1896. http://zeabermudez.es/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=86&Itemid=102
Pero las fechas no concuerdan. Hay otro en Málaga: http://gw.geneanet.org/flofer28?lang=es&pz=fernando&nz=alarcon+porras&ocz=0&p=jose&n=buzo+y+caceres
Esta es la mejor información al respecto. https://vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=88775
According to the Getty Ulan list of artists' names, José María Alarcón y Cáceres (1824-83) is the only artist with a similar name active in the 19C: http://www.getty.edu/vow/ULANServlet?english=Y&find=Cáceres&role;=&page=1&nation;=
Is there a connection between him and José Buzo [y] Cáceres (active 1830–1870), the painter of the portrait under discussion which dates from 1832?
This family tree in English might help: http://zeabermudez.es/webtrees/individual.php?pid=I3352&ged=tree1
But it is clear that Jose Buzo y Caceres (1824-83) listed here is too young to be the painter of the portrait under discussion.
I am not suggesting there is any connection, but an 1807 portrait by the American painter Rembrandt Peale of his brother Rubens Peale is strikingly similar (albeit better painted):
It is certainly interesting, Jacinto, thank you; but if you look back through the thread you'll see Andrea Kollmann drew our attention to the same portrait a couple of years ago.
Ah, yes, I missed that. The sitter, by the way, had "weak eyes," hence the unusual glasses (and the fact he did not pursue a career as an artist like most of his siblings).
would it be possible to attached a very hi-res image of the signature on this painting? The NICE catalogue description states that the text reads as 'Por José Buso 1832'. Buso vs. Buzo! What evidence ever existed for its positive attribution as a work by José Buzo y Cáceres?
As Barbara Bryant points about above, José Buzo y Cáceres was too young to have painted this work. Unless, of course, there were two gentlemen of the same name (the Buzo coming from his father and the Cáceres from his mother), he was born in Malaga on the 17th July 1824, and was baptised, in the Iglesia del Sagrario there, on the 18th July of that year. He was the son of Francisco de Paula Buzo y Hurtado and Josefa Cáceres y Martinez. His death is recorded as happening in Malaga in 1883. If the painting's inscription is correct, he would have been 8 years old when he painted this portrait. What a prodigy!!
See the excellent analysis of the Buzo family tree here:
The real question of interest - the identity of the sitter - has sadly not yet been addressed on this forum, however the identity of the artist could be critical in guiding that search in the right direction. Hence the museum has certainly taken an interest in the recent direction of this discussion. The superficial resemblance to early American (that is US of A) paintings, particularly those of the Peale family, has long been noted, however it is now known that there are many portraits of spectacle wearers from this period...and that's just how they looked. No connection should be assumed. In any case, I was reliably informed by Nicholas Penny, when Assistant Director of the National Gallery, that the style of our painting was Italian. The original frame has been replaced and so provides no clue. The inscription which is best read as 1832, though could be 1839, would (whichever reading is correct) still indicate a date too early to be the particular individual noted by the genealogical researchers contributing to this discussion. The conservator' report states 1829, but I suspect that was a slip of the pen. On the matter of how it came to be attributed to José Buzo Caceres, this was relatively recently but in the pre-Internet age, as the result of paper correspondence (March 2000) with the Prado in Madrid...they also stated that it looked typically Andalucian! The inscription, of course, contains only the first two names José Buzo (definitely a 'z', not an 's') and so any alternative suggestions would be welcomed. The names are preceded by the word 'Por' which has also caused much debate amongst native Spanish and Portuguese speakers known to us. 'Por' could, for example, be taken to mean that the picture was made on his behalf. It can mean 'by' or 'for' depending upon the language, dialect or usage. Someone also suggested it could be an abbreviation for 'portrait'. Correspondence from around the time we obtained the picture, in 1992 (Bonhams, Chelsea Sale, 3 June 1992), indicates that some people assumed that Buzo was part of the TITLE. Bonhams also listed it as 1839 but that was before the surface was cleaned. This is an excellent example of a painting where newly available digital information may call into question the authoritative statements of major art galleries and where the opinions of acknowledged experts, some of whom have stood in front of the picture and inspected it closely, may be seen to be wildly divergent...to the point that a small museum does not know to whose opinion it should attach the most weight. Could an 8-year old, or a 15 year-old have painted it. Or is it a portrait of the man of that name (looking distinctly older still). The mystery remains.
The word "por" clearly implies "by." "For" would be "para," and it is certainly not an abbreviation for portrait, which in Spanish is "retrato."
The message from the representative of the College of Optometrists above is most enlightening, especially at the point where it is suggested that the date of the painting could be set at 1839, depending on how the signature and date are read. In the Gaceta de Madrid, dated the 20th December 1839, a report appears that gives the details of a two-day series of public examinations of students of the Mercantile College in Malaga, under the direction of Don José Pabglieri. The Director's report concludes by him stating that some his students will be presenting a series of drawings, and that "Don José Buzo, a young man of 15 years, will show a portrait that he has made under the supervision of Don Luiz de la Cruz, chamber painter of S.M."
For this José Buzo to be 15 in 1839 fits in perfectly with the already-supplied genealogical details for Jóse Buzo y Cáceres, above, and supports the birth year of him as being 1824. If the College of Optometrists' portrait can be dated to 1839, it is entirely possible that it was painted by the 15-year-old Buzo.
The quality of his painted work might be explained by the excellence of his (in 1839) 63-year-old teacher. Luis de la Cruz y Rios was born in Puerto de la Cruz, in Tenerife, in 1776, and died in Antequera, in Malaga, in 1853. In 1808 he was the royal mayor of his native city and was the professor of drawing of the Consulate of the Sea of the city of Tenerife of San Cristóbal de La Laguna. In 1815 he was named painter of King's Chamber by Fernando VII, and was appointed, in 1825, Knight of the Order of San Miguel (Saint Michael), by King Charles X of France. His last years were spent in Andalusia, where he was professor of landscape painting, one of his pupils being Carlos de Haes (1826 - 1898). The attached self-portrait, from c. 1830, which is in the collection of the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes de Santa Cruz de Tenerife, shows de la Cruz wearing the uniform of secretary of the King's Chamber, as well as wearing the cross, plaque and band of the Order of the Golden Spur, which was granted by Pope Pius VII, in addition to the plaque of commander of the Order of Charles III and the 'Encomienda Ordinaria' of the Order of Isabel the Catholic.
I know that all of the above does not identify the sitter, as the College so earnestly desires, but at least it might help confirm that the painting is by José Buzo y Cáceres, albeit as executed by him when he was 15. Maybe he was a prodigy after all!
P.S. If my suggestion is at al plausible, then it is most likely that the sitter was from Malaga, or at least from Andalusia, given that Buzo and de la Cruz would both, most likely, have been there in 1839. If so, it at least narrows down the geographical area in which to search for the sitter's true identity.
The signature "Por (By) José Buzo," as opposed to simply "José Buzo," is somewhat amateurish, suggesting a certain lack of professionalism or sophistication which would fit a work by a 15-year-old student (the same applies to the signature as script as seen on the painting, both in terms of schoolboyish calligraphic neatness and a rather awkward spatial placement).
For what it may be worth, railway travel did not begin in Spain until 1848. Therefore, there would have been no practical use for "railway spectacles" as such in Spain when this picture was painted.
For what it may be worth, railway travel did not begin in Spain until 1848. Therefore, there would have been no practical use for "railway spectacles" as such in Spain when this picture was painted.
The modern collector's term 'railway spectacles' (or 'railroad spectacles' in the US) should not be taken literally. They appear to have been in existence already by the early 1820s, before the advent of passenger railway services in any part of the world. Although they became popular amongst such travellers they owe their origins, although not their exact form, to the supplementary side lenses patented in England by Richardson in 1797. Their purpose was usually either medical (often featuring a therapeutic tint) or industrial, e.g. used in factories/foundries etc. I would suspect the former reason to apply in the case of this portrait. [Neil Handley, Museum Curator]
The sitter is evidently a member of the upper class. Malaga was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution in Spain, which gave rise to a group of rich families of businessmen, industrialists and landowners known collectively as "la oligarquía de la Alameda" (because their mansions were on or near the Alameda, the chief avenue in the city). I expect the sitter may well have belonged to one such family.
Here's an article (in Spanish) about the aforementioned oligarchy, including surnames of the various families (some of which, interestingly enough, were involved in the railroad business):
This discussion has been nicely reanimated. But as the date of the painting is key might the College of Optometrists provide a high res image or at least a bigger detail of the date and signature? Many thanks.
Buzo is a relatively uncommon surname in Spain, and it appears to be unusually prevalent in Malaga according to this genealogy site:
The highest res image of the signature that we have, cut from the photo taken by the PCF in preparation for what is now the Art UK website, is quite inadequate for any desk-bound researcher to form a judgment although it may at least reassure those who were wondering surely a 9 couldn't look like a 2, or vice versa. Many top figures from the British Art world have viewed the painting in person, under various illumination and, on their authority, it is still ambiguous as to whether it is a 2 with a somewhat thin lower horizontal stroke or a 9 followed by a full stop. Other examples of the artist's work would perhaps reveal the convention adopted. He clearly put a full stop after his name. I can certainly read it as either numeral. To revise the catalogued date to 1839 without a firmer basis for confirming the artist's identity would be a large step at this stage, but the direction of the Art Detective discussion is certainly providing an interesting possibility that we may have to consider doing so. Here at the museum we are enjoying the engagement you are having with this, one of our more recently acquired paintings, and would urge all who can to visit in person. Contact us to make an appointment.
Based on the provided photo of the signature, the date certainly appears to be 1839 followed by a full stop, not 1832.
Once again, the use of a full stop after the date is the sort of thing a schoolboy would do, or would be much more likely to do than an older professional artist. That is obviously "soft" evidence, but strikes me as significant nonetheless.
Curiously, many of the "oligarchic" families in 19th century Malaga had foreign ancestry and correspondingly foreign surnames (including the English surname Livermore, from Essex, and the American surname Loring, from Boston, Massachusetts).
Viewing the supplied image of the signature and date, it seems more probable that the last numeral is a 9. If it was a 2, would the top circular element of it not have a more open character, as is the case in the adjacent 3? That circular element has more in common with the artist's use of the two "coffee bean" semi-circles that form the letter O in the words Por, José and Buzo. Also, the letters of the signature are so precisely painted that it seems odd that the artist would not have rendered a number 2 with a clearly painted horizontal foot similar to the Z in his name, or rendered it as clearly as he has done with the numbers 1, 8 and 3 as well as all the letters of his name. Additionally, there is no serif under the first numeral 1, so a 9 ending abruptly on a down-stroke before a full stop is quite an acceptable proposition. The suggested use of two full stops is also reasonable. It seems unlikely that he would have used one stop after his name and none after the date. Would it not either be two or none? The possibility must be considered that this is a (or the) presentation piece by a 15-year-old student (hence the use of the phrase "Por José Buzo", to identify him from his young artistic peers), as described in the December 1839 issue of the Gaceta de Madrid referenced above. All of these suggestions are, of course, conjectural, but a stimulating discussion of a range of possibilities might eventually lead to a successful result. By the way, were there any identifying marks on the back of the canvas?
This is clearly speculative, but below is a photo (ca. 1870) of Manuel Loring Heredia (born 1854), connected to the prominent Loring, Heredia and Livermore families of Malaga. Perhaps I am imagining it, but there seems to be a possible family resemblance between him and the man in the painting under discussion:
Jacinto, your suggestion might not be as speculative as you so modestly imagine. Attached is a composite image of our sitter set beside George Loring, of Malaga. Wikipedia says of the latter: "George Loring (1771–1843), a New England-born merchant and descendant of the New England Deacon Thomas Loring family, moved to Málaga, Spain where he married and their descendants continue today. One of his sons, known as George Henry Loring in New England and Jorge Loring Y Oyarzábal in Spain, was created a Spanish Marquis in 1856. The present holder of the title is the seventh Loring descendant to do so."
It must be noticed from the composite image that the attire of the two gentleman is almost identical, down to the double-buttoned jacket. As George Loring died in 1843, aged 71, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the portrait of him was painted a few years earlier, when he was in his late 60s. Does the George Loring portrait show a man of this vintage? If so, may there here be a case of father and son being painted at roughly the same time, and perhaps by the same artist? If two portraits are not by the same person, it would be interesting, too, if the Loring portrait turned out to be by Luis de la Cruz, the painting mentor of Buzo. Both paintings certainly point to a similarity of fashion styles, which must have been prevalent in Malaga in the late 1830s and early 1840s.
If the George Loring portrait is still in the family's possession, correspondence with the present generation of the Loring family might throw some light on the subject, especially if their portrait is singed and/or painted on a similar canvas with similar paints. The current representative of the family is Vittoria Eugenia Alvarez de Toledo y Marone-Cinzano (b. Málaga, 8 October 1961), 7th Marchioness of Casa Loring.
Attached also is a biographical sketch of George Loring. Details within it might help identify other possible candidates for our unknown sitter.
If our man is a son of the patriarch George Loring, it would have to be either José Jorge (born 1819) or Jorge Enrique (born 1822), the former being more likely given the 1839 date on the portrait. Both sons were apparently sent to the US to study by their father. Jorge Enrique, who became the first Marquess Loring, opened a museum to hold his archeological collection, which eventually became part of the current Museo de Málaga (and that museum may be able to shed more light on the matter of this portrait).
Two portraits by Luis de la Cruz y Rios for comparison (the first is a self-portrait):
A most interesting find, Jacinto. Attached for comparison are three sitters with similar fashion tastes. The painting on the left depicts your new sitter with an almost identical outfit to the Buzo portrait's sitter, down to the silver shirt stud. The three portraits would, therefore, seem to date for the late 1830s.
Cruz Rios moved to Malaga in 1837, so if one of his students there painted the portrait under discussion, the date on the painting is definitely 1839 and not 1832.
I am still curious about the inclusion of the "railway" spectacles in the portrait, which appears deliberately intended to highlight them (including the position of the head to show the colored glass side panel, despite the fact that the sitter's face is partly obscured as a result). The spectacles need not have been included, or a more conventional pair could have been used instead. I suspect they must have been considered very fashionable, advanced or sophisticated at the time, and this being a young man of society, possibly a dandy, that may have mattered to him.
Perhaps I am imagining it, since our portrait does not show an optimal view of the sitter's face, but in keeping with the possibility that he is a member of the prominent Loring family of Málaga (presumably José Jorge Loring, born 1819), I think there is a resemblance between him and the grandson of his brother Jorge Enrique Loring, Jorge Loring Martinez (born 1889), a pioneer of civil aviation in Spain:
Here's another photo of him:
Note the largish nose, prominent forehead and triangular face shared by both men, at least to my eye. Suggestive, at least.
For comparative interest only: portrait of a Russian nobleman with similar spectacles ca. 1850, by Franz Kruger:
We'd argue these are not, in fact, 'similar' spectacles. They are a remarkably late occurrence of the Richardson patent spectacles of 1797. Whilst that type was a necessary precursor of the D-spectacles that our Spanish gentleman wears, they are otherwise of a different variety. So Russian nobility were pioneering the vintage look while the Spanish youth were adopting the latest fashions! It is another great painting though, and not one of which we were previously aware.
Ahí disponéis de alguna información sobre la vida del malagueño José Buzo y Cáceres. Perteneció y fue secretario del Liceo de Bellas Artes de Málaga. Algunas obras suyas se conservan aunque no muchas.
Señor Buzo, muchas gracias por esta información
Mr. Buzo's comment above is roughly translated as:
Here is some information about the life of José Buzo y Cáceres from Malaga. He belonged to and was secretary of the Liceo de Bellas Artes de Málaga. Some, but not many, of his works are preserved (known)."
If linking to the Malaga website above, placing the word Buzo in the Autor search windows will return 14 results, some of which directly are relevant to this portrait's painter.
Note that that most of the documents involve José Buzo, as distinct from two documents involving Juan Buzo y Cáceres, who was presumably his younger brother (born 1835) as per the genealogical information linked above. I suspect, based on these documents, that José Buzo studied painting and naturally produced some pictures but made his career as an art teacher and functionary or administrator, as opposed to being a professional artist who lived from the sale of his paintings. This would explain the paucity of his known extant works and how little is known about him as an artist.
It would appear, then, that the College of Optometrists owns a precocious 1839 portrait by José Buzo y Cáceres (1824-1883) of a young gentleman of fashion from a wealthy Málaga family, possibly the Loring family, in which case he is most probably José Jorge Loring y Oyarzábal (born 1818 or 1819, died 1873):
Indeed, this picture may well be one of the few extant works by this artist and, albeit an early work, possibly one of his most interesting, given the "railway" spectacles rarely depicted in Spanish painting.
José Jorge Loring was sent to the United States as a youth to be educated under the care of his father's relatives in Massachusetts, and then returned to Málaga to join the family business. Since we know (see first comment in this thread) that "railway" spectacles were being worn in the US in the 1830s, José Jorge may well have obtained the spectacles during his stay there and brought them back to Málaga as a fashionable or distinguishing novelty.
All documents available through the link provided by Sr. Guillermo Buzo above which relate to José Buzo are concerned with matters of art school administration, art education and art exhibition (they are dated 1845-1847). Again, this would appear to correspond with José Buzo having a career in art education.
Thank you to all who have contributed so far, perhaps especially to Kieran and Jacinto. We are enjoying the continuing discussion and have no wish to bring it to a close. Nevertheless we have reviewed the evidence so far and have taken the decision to revise our dating of this painting to 1839. This is consistent with the arguments presented on this website for reading the fourth digit of the inscribed date in that way and with the identification of the artist as José Buzo Cáceres (1824-1883), who is specifically mentioned as having been active at the age of 15 under the 'supervision' of an established portraitist who used a similar style. We also welcome the proposed name for a sitter, noting his American links, and hope that further research in that direction might yet unearth further biographical information that would support the proposition.
Adjunto dos fotografías de otros cuadros de José Buzo y Cáceres que me facilitó hace mas de 10 años una descendiente suya de Málaga por si pudiesen ayudar a dar algo de luz en todo este asunto.
In his 'Spectacles and Other Vision Aids - A History and Guide to Collecting, J. William Rosenthal has a chapter entitled 'Industrial & Protective Goggles and Spectacles'. One interesting paragraph reads (with my dates in brackets): 'The realities of life in the 18th century entailed economic choices much as in modern times. When traveling on a stagecoach (c.1790s), the comfortable, clean seats inside cost more that the outside seats or clinging on to the "rails" on the outside. To protect one's eyes from dust, rocks, and sunlight, "railroad" glasses were used. These were glasses with side-pieces whose lenses were rather thick and coloured. About 50 to 75 years later (1840s to 1865s) a very sophisticated version appeared - double D-shaped lenses, some sporting think plates of Brazilian pebble. These were advertised by John Browning as being "shot proof".
An example of such a latter pair can be seen here:
It should be noted, though the myth of their efficacy has been debunked in several quarters, that this style of eyewear was also described as "syphilis glasses".
Finally, in what might be a complete coincidence, the second son of George Loring, George Henry Loring, who was born in Malaga in 1822, was granted the concession in 1859 to build the first railroad in Andalusia, from Cordova to Malaga, which opened in August 1865. It was he who married Amalia Heredia, and who were the parents of the Manuel Loring Heredia referenced in one of the comments above.
I only mention this as George might have been inspired to enter the railway business by seeing the early US railroad developments when he was a young boy being educated with his older brother, Joseph George, by their father's relations in Massachusetts.
A portrait of a similar style, dated to 1837, can be found in the Cleveland Museum of Art:
Oops, my apologies, I had not remembered the very first comment by Tim Williams in this discussion.
It's nice to finally see a version of 'Hens' (Private collection, dated 1872), a known late work of this artist, as opposed to our very early work.
With regard to D-Spectacles, hallmarked silver examples prove their existence in the early 1820s but, as yet, no earlier. The late Bill Rosenthal's book, although well-respected, is not infallible and I think this is an occasion where he conflates evidence and even misleads. I know no other serious collector who thinks they were used as far back as the late 18th century. They came to be named (albeit after their invention) after the new-fangled form of railway transport and this is nothing to do with stagecoach travel. I stand by the suggestion that the eyewear in our painting was still a relatively new style in the 1830s (as were passenger railways, although you didn't need to be near a railway to wear them) which may explain the interest in depicting it in a manner such that it is the eyewear and not the wearer that attracts our attention.
With respect, Kieran's link to a well-known commercial trading website does not, in fact, depict the shot-proof type of the mid-19th century which were considerably thicker. (John Browning was the first President of the British Optical Association, the parent body that founded what is now the College of Optometrists' Museum). We have examples of all such historic spectacles, and more, in our collection in central London. That's why we have also collected paintings of people wearing or holding similar historic styles. I aim to start a new Art Detective discussion on another of these very shortly, so successful has the current discussion proved. Neil Handley, BOA Museum Curator.
Neil, please forgive the ill-informed suggestions regarding the specifics of the design etc. ArtUK's discussions are not, to the chagrin of some (or even many), entirely contributed to be experts in every field. The comments are only posted when a potentially useful reference, which might help move the enquiry along, has not already appeared in the ongoing exchange between contributors. Sometimes, the discounting of a particular line of enquiry can save wasted hours of research for others and focus attention on more promising areas of investigation.
In consultation with the Art UK team we are proposing to close this discussion and proceed with the official re-dating of the picture on this website to 1839, as has already been done on our own online catalogue, viewable at http://www.museyeum.org
The discussion on Art Detective has not established with certainty the identity of the sitter, so the title must remain as it is (descriptive but assuredly accurate) but we are most grateful for the very feasible suggestions as to whom it might depict and for the greater insights to the art world in Malaga in the second quarter of the 19th century. We will be revising the label of the picture on display to draw attention to these possibilities. (Art UK is all about bringing about results!) If any readers have additional insights to offer at a subsequent date, they are most welcome to contact the museum directly and let it also be restated that there is no substitute to viewing a good painting 'in the flesh' (so-to-speak), so we would also welcome requests by any or all for appointments to view it.
Based on the comments from the College of Optometrists above, this discussion can now be closed. Of course, if new information comes to light, it could always be reopened, or, as the collection suggests, new information can be brought to the attention of the College.