Symbolism (a late nineteenth-century art movement), basically was a reaction against Realism (which elevated the humble and the ordinary over the ideal, and represented reality in all its grittiness). Symbolism was concerned with the imagination and dreams; the realm of absolute truths that could only be described indirectly.
“...they are perceptible surfaces created to represent their esoteric affinities with the primordial Ideals. In a nutshell, 'to depict not the thing but the effect it produces.’” - from Jean Moréas’ Symbolist Manifesto ("Le Symbolisme") in Le Figaro on 18 September 1886.
Gitana de la naranja by Julio Romero de Torres is undated. But we know he also painted Oranges and Lemons in 1927, and The Girl in the Orange in 1928. Both are similar to the one we are looking at here.
A woman is the protagonist. She is sensual, with an almost tragic and ambiguous expression. She holds an orange, something that finds its way in to many of Torres’s paintings. What could it mean? Is it a symbol of fertility? We do know that Eastern cultures believe that Orange trees are a symbol of love. And, also that Orange represents gluttony in Christianity.
The thing I find more interesting is the mixture of the idealistic with elements of a realistic portrait. This painting resembles more of a realistic portrait, yet the idealistic air places his figure in a vague halo of timelessness, giving this Andalusian the physical characteristics of a universal archetype, of feminine beauty.