Joan Cardona was born into a family of artists and made a name for himself as a painter and a sketcher. He studied at the Escola de Belles Arts de La Llotja and at the Acadèmia Baixas in Barcelona. He later went to Paris to further his studies and lived there for a number of years, forming a group together with Cappiello, SEM and Steinlen, noted artists in the sphere of illustration. Cardona worked as an illustrator for a large number of magazines and journals in the opening years of the 20th century, among them Forma, La Il·lustració Catalana, El gato negro and Hispania, as well as Jugend in Germany and Le Rire in France. It was while he was in the French capital that Cardona came to international attention.
On his return to Barcelona, Cardona abandoned the themes of his years in Paris and instead adopted a more folkloric and picturesque style known as the ‘Castilian School’. His paintings featured mainly gypsies, gaily-dressed women known as majas and female figures and were commercially very successful. Cardona’s vision of gypsies, as expressed in his paintings, is very different to that of Nonell, since he recreates a joie de vivre and a sense of euphoria far removed from the tragedy and misery of Nonell’s works.
Ofrenda de mayo displays Cardona’s skill as a colourist, which he deploys in this piece worthy of the month of flowers. The floral offering provides the artist with a pretext to reinterpret genre painting in this work with three female figures holding richly decorated urns and dressed in the exuberant style of eastern Spain, with their skirts, mantillas, combs, jewellery and flowers in their hair. The figure on the left is bathed in light coming from directly overhead whereas the figure on the far left is in the shadows and holds an open fan. In this manner, the painter manages to establish a hierarchy in a small space while at the same time breaking up what would otherwise be a monotonous alignment.