Private Collection, United States;
Private Collection, United Kingdom
Giovanni Boldini was born in Ferrara, Italy in 1845, the eighth of thirteen children. He moved to Florence in 1862-65, where he came into contact with members of the Barbizon school and the Macchiaioli – a group of artists opposed to the strict teachings of the Accademia. The Macchiaioli worked to emphasise painterly immediacy and freshness, notions that were also tied to the French Impressionists. A great influence upon Boldini’s work was his friendship with the influential thinker and art critic Diego Martelli who, himself, would help mould and champion the ideas of Impressionism in Italy.
From 1864 onwards Boldini dedicated himself to the rejuvenation of the portrait genre. With the desire to improve the way people were depicted, he created a new style of portraiture that he wanted to spread to other Tuscan artists. These portraits were mostly full length, placing the sitter in varying environments they were most
comfortable in, and as in Ritratto di Giovane Signora it is the setting which highlights Boldini’s innovation. Often depicted in homes, but also studios, these locations were used by Boldini as a wealth of information and expression of the sitter’s personal life. One such work is the portrait of Diego Martelli which hangs in Florence’s Palazzo Pitti.
Boldini was known for impulsively creating works in a moment of artistic expression. In his Ritratto di Maria Angelini Boldini has written the phrase ‘threat of the portrait’ (minaccia di ritratto) instead of a signature. This portrait, similarly to Ritratto di Giovane Signora is clearly of a young woman of a noble family, who could therefore afford to pay for a portrait of major importance. It was in this period that Boldini was search for new clients for his portraits, suggesting that Ritratto di Giovane Signora is a form of advertisement for the artist’s skill and ability to create exquisite impromptu portraits as proof of his talent.