Musée de Luxembourg, Paris, 1907;
Private collection, Argentina, 1908;
Private collection, 1984 – 2017
Expositión General de Bellas Artes, Madrid, 1906, no. 1249.
Salon de la Société des Artistes Français, Paris, 1907, no. 1590.
Exposicion Universal del Centenario de Buenos Aires, 1908.
André Pératé, “Les Salons de 1907: La Peinture au
Salon des Artistes Français,” Gazette des Beaux Arts,
June 1907, p. 453, ill.
“Vázquez, Úbeda (Carlos),” Enciclopedia Universal
Ilustrada , Bilbao and Madrid, 1929, vol. 67, pp. 387-389, ill.
Joaquin Ciervo, Los Grandes Artistas Contemporaneos:
Carlos Vazquez , Barcelona, 1932, pp. 97-98, ill.
Elizabeth du Gué Trapier, Catalogue of Paintings
(19th and 20th Centuries) in the Collection of the Hispanic
Society of America, New York, 1932, vol. 1, p. 511.
Cien Años de Pintura en España y Portugal (1830-1930),
Madrid, 1988-93, vol. XI, p. 190.
Carlos Vázquez Úbeda (fig. 1) was one of the best known and most successful Spanish painters of
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was born at Ciudad Real. His father, the son
of a general, was a notary and his mother, Matilde Úbeda, from whom he took his last name, was
his first teacher of drawing. He then studied in Madrid at the Escuela de Bellas Artes beginning in
1886, but soon went to Paris where he worked for four years under the academic painter Léon
Bonnat, who, since he had trained in Madrid, favored Spanish students. Vázquez began exhibiting
at the Paris Salon in 1893. His works were very favorably received, as there still existed in France
a taste for all things Spanish. Forsaking landscapes, Vázquez focused in great part on portraying
indigenous Spaniards, especially those from the Valley of Ansó, a remote area in the Pyrenees
Mountains between Pamplona and Huesca, where the people wore picturesque, old-fashioned
costumes. These regional genre subjects (figs. 2-7), including gypsies and flamenco dancers, won
him medals and fame. In 1898 the painter returned to Spain and settled in Barcelona. There he
frequented the literary café Els Quatre Gats made famous by the presence of the younger artists
Pablo Picasso, Ramon Casas, and Santiago Ruisiñol. But Vázquez was also friendly with such
contemporaries as Joaquin Sorolla, who was best man at his wedding. In addition to his genre
paintings, Vázquez produced book illustrations, posters, and did some portraits, including in 1926
one of King Alfonso XIII (figs. 8a-b). In 1914 Vázquez was elected a corresponding member
of New York’s Hispanic Society of America, where two of his works were presented by its
founder, Archer M. Huntington, – The Honeymoon in the Valley of Anso, of 1911, which had won
a gold medal at the Paris Salon, and a Self-Portrait of 1913 (figs. 9-10).1 He never travelled to
America, but his 1908 painting The Mother in Law (fig. 7a) was acquired by William Randolph
Hearst, and that same year Going to the Fair at Salamanca (fig. 7b) was shown in the San
Francisco World’s Fair. Vázquez spent his long career in Spain and France, where he was made a
member of the Legion of Honor, and he continued to work assiduously until his death while
painting in his studio on August 31, 1944.
The present impressive painting, which rightly may be called Vázquez’s masterpiece, was
executed and exhibited in Madrid in 1906. It gained the artist the appointment as Caballero de la
Orden de Alfonso XII , and it was shown the next year at the Paris Salon. There the title had
appended to it a French translation – “gendarmes Catalans ” – and it earned him a silver medal.
According to several sources, the painting was acquired by the French State for the Musée de
Luxembourg.2 Writing in the Salon review in the Gazette de Beaux Arts , where the work was
illustrated, André Pératé noted the realistic landscape background and described the subject as “the
gendarmes Catalans escorting a friendly couple of rogues of whom the faces are a poem, no less
than their vividly colored costumes.” The critic seems to have missed the rather pointed,
underlying message of discrimination which is being portrayed here. Set before the mountainous
landscape of Barcelona, the scene shows three pompous mozos (policemen), in their overly
elaborate uniforms and with their weapons prominent, who have caught two gypsy smugglers and
seem to be either escorting them out of town or taking them to jail followed by their sad dog.
These Mozos de Escudara, who were themselves often gypsies, were a special police force that
had existed since the 18th century for the express purpose of dealing with gypsies.3
Joaquin Ciervo in his brief 1932 monograph on the artist chose to provide for the
painting a little scenario. He described the arrested gypsies as from Alcala – the man
“sullen and impassive like a pharaoh;” the woman, a pickpocket, who utters untranslatable curses
in gypsy argot.4 The two gypsies are at the center of the composition and look directly out at the
viewer with grim expressions. The dark skinned man, a cigarette dangling in his mouth, carries a
bag possibly concealing his loot. The intense woman in her brilliantly patterned dress holds her
sombrero by her side. Her yellow scarf is flamboyantly wound around her neck. Like Carmen, she
seems someone not to be trifled with!
According to the entry on Vázquez Úbeda in the Enciclopedia Universal Illustrada , the
year after entering the collection of the French State, this painting was sent to an exhibition in
Buenos Aires, Argentina.5 Apparently it was never returned to France, as it appears sometime later
in an Argentinian collection. At the same time as he painted this large work, the artist also
produced a small pastel of the subject (fig. 11).6 Then in 1937, probably for an extensive
retrospective exhibition of his work held that year in Norway, Vázquez painted a smaller,
somewhat less detailed oil version of the composition (fig. 12), perhaps using the earlier pastel as
his model. This later version has been titled either La gitana presa (The Arrested Gypsies) or La
detenida (The Detainees) .7 Dating from the same time is also another variation of the theme,
which shows just a gypsy woman with a dog detained by the two Catalan policemen (fig. 13).8
Vázquez’s paintings, with their attention to the details of traditional garb worn by rural types may
recall the folkloric paintings by his fellow Spanish painter Ignacio Zuloaga, but, as he shows in
this work, he was able to add an element of social commentary to the purely ethnographic