Allegorical portrait of Carlos Baerga

A picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning.

Spring 1994
Selina's New Dress

Carlos Baerga was at the height of his baseball career with the Cleveland Indians when I did this painting of him. He had recently purchased and settled into his first real home and I was hired by him and his wife Miriam to decorate the new house. With this job I lived the dream of many women, which is to shop, shop, and then… shop some more. In a six-month period I had spent over one hundred and forty thousand dollars in the house’s décor.

Each room and the 4-bedroom, two-story suburban house in Westlake, Ohio, had its own flavor and I selected, designed, constructed and installed everything with the help of my own crew of decorators. Except for the furniture which was special-ordered from store catalogs, everything was custom-made. I also designed the curtains and drapes, the trees and flower arrangements; the carpet designs, the lighting, and the paintings.


Allegorical portrait of Carlos Baerga. 1984. Artist's oils on masonite panel. 48 inches high.

I did most the walls myself -including painting and wallpapering, and some of the artwork. Since I was on a timetable, I selected several artist friends to do some of the designs. I also commissioned two paintings from my friend Hector Vega, giving him the themes and color schemes for the pieces to match the décor. I did some simple murals on the master bedroom and bath, and painted the two principal paintings -one for the dining room -Midnight Rose (see it in the Paintings page), and this painting of Carlos for his anteroom.

The painting is the only thing with color in the room. Everything else is basically white and black –Carlos’ personal favourite scheme. This alone pulls the eye towards it. But in addition, notice also how the lamp and the branch of the flower tree are placed to further emphasis its privileged position. This was the first thing visitors noticed when they entered the house. It welcomed guests and it left little doubt of who was the master of the keep.


The anteroom at Carlos' house, seen during an early lighting test on the left, and the completed room on the right. The portrait is the room's main focus.

The painting was done on a 4-foot high (122 cm) piece of masonite (this is the brand-name of a processed hardboard panel) and set unto a black lacquered wood frame when completed. I like using masonite over canvas because of its smooth surface finish. To prepare the panel for painting the finish must be sanded and both sides of the panel primed with several coats of gesso. The rendering was executed with Artist’s oils with a thin coating of synthetic varnish applied after it cured.

This is an 'allegorical painting' because it represents a meaning beyond or in addition to the literal meaning of what has been depicted. The painting is depicting a colorful and obvious portrait of Carlos Baerga. But the setting, the pose, and the elements that surround the subject were carefully selected to say more about sitter other than to show his physical appearance.


Close-up detail of Carlos' portrait. Painting on a smooth surface allows me to use a minimal of paint to achieve a finished result. The paint is combined with medium (turpentine, refined linseed oil and a few drops of Liquin drier) to produce very thin glazes painted over a grisaille likeness. The grisaille (French word meaning "gray") is a monochrome underpainting (the first layer of paint).

Like a hunter, he sits on the skins of animals representing the challenges he had to overcome. He is dressed casual but tastefully, he boots polished to a mirror shine, his buttoned shirt and jeans are crisp and stylish; designer shades held in one hand relaxed hand. He is a man secured in himself, his skills, and his youth. He knows that even if the sun sets, it will surely rise again.

The floor is made with tiles of marble -a reminder from classical times when public idols where placed on pedestals of worship. On the lower right a shadow of the laurel which crowned the victors reaches out to him. Nearby is a taburette -a low serving table, with a coffee mug. This represents the belief in customs and traditions, like the three o'clock coffee break or tea time. It is an indication that one must take time out to enjoy the moment and meditate on one's good fortune.

carlos-baerga-and-his-portrait by john rivera-resto, 1994

Carlos Baerga. 1984.

This is why the subject seems unaware of the viewer; he is deep in contemplation… This is a personal painting; it is a painting with meaning and significance; and one that also tries to say something of the character of the sitter.

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