Luis Ricardo Falero (Spanish 1851-1896), The fake Duke of Labranzano, painter of nudes, reprobate seducer & pin-up art pioneer. With a hint of opium.
Luis Ricardo Fallero painted nudes and not a lot else. Like an early Hugh Hefner in prototype, his world revolved around nudes. He did however, also have a strong side interest in astronomy; he illustrated the books of the wonderfully named French astronomer Camille Flammarion; and in astrology, which he said inspired him “to representing cosmological subjects or witches’ in his work. In other words, these other interests came back, in the end, to nudes. Many of his works, his floating women, are set against spacey celestial constellations. His all encompassing theme however was the female form, something he depicted with great style, charm, technical prowess, and more than a hint of eroticism.
His floating femmes fatales positively glow with an almost edible glossy voluptousness and anticipate the aesthetics of the pin-up art of more than a century later. Looking at his imagery, it’s easy to forget that it was painted in the 1870s – 1880s and not Photoshopped yesterday.
Falero gave himself the imaginary title Duke of Labranzano. There is not a single reference to a duchy of Labranzano in the Spanish Ministry of Justice’s guide to nobility titles. Every single reference to the word “Labranzano” that exists is attached to Luis Ricardo Falero. Whist this is far from conclusive, it does seem that Falero invented this, his very own dukedom, all for himself.
Fallero was well known in his day, or at least his women were. Fallero’s paintings were mechanically reproduced in glorious colour, some of them used in publicity for wine companies. His distinctive imagery was widely distributed and savoured. This dramatically increased public recognition of The Duke & his work.
There’s the whiff of scandal about the Duke of Labranzano, a hint he was something of a reprobate & perhaps an opium fiend. In at least 2 of his images there are references to opium.In 1896, the year of his death, his housemaid, Maud Harvey sued Falero for paternity. Maud’s suit alleged that Falero had first seduced her when she was 17 whilst she was serving as his housemaid. She later became one of his models. When Falero discovered she was pregnant, said Maud, he dismissed her. Maud won her case and was awarded five shillings a week to support their child.
Falero died in London, too soon, at the age of 45.