Ritratto di Giovane Signora

by Giovanni Boldini

Ritratto di Giovane Signora is a rare early portrait by the Italian master Giovanni Boldini from 1863-65. In this work a beautiful young woman stares knowingly out towards us. The black of her dress, which engulfs her body, is a stark contrast to her unblemished white skin. She is presented against a grey background in a formal portraiture composition, which gives reference to traditional portraiture while simultaneously beckoning in a new style for the genre. The empty background signals Boldini’s early style in which he quickly painted small portraits that focused upon the image of the sitter. With just the lady’s face to hold our attention all detail is on how it expresses her personality. With light illuminating on her face, we are given a real insight into Boldini’s skill in transforming portraiture in his early Tuscan years.

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 7.00 x 7.25 ins/ 17.78 x 18.42 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed ‘Boldini’ (lower right)
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

Catalogue No: 3818 Categories: , ,

Ritratto di Giovane Signora is a rare early portrait by the Italian master Giovanni Boldini from 1863-65. In this work a beautiful young woman stares knowingly out towards us. The black of her dress, which engulfs her body, is a stark contrast to her unblemished white skin. She is presented against a grey background in a formal portraiture composition, which gives reference to traditional portraiture while simultaneously beckoning in a new style for the genre. The empty background signals Boldini’s early style in which he quickly painted small portraits that focused upon the image of the sitter. With just the lady’s face to hold our attention all detail is on how it expresses her personality. With light illuminating on her face, we are given a real insight into Boldini’s skill in transforming portraiture in his early Tuscan years.

There is clear evidence of the canvas size being reduced probably for conservation reasons, with the likelihood being that Boldini’s signature was cut off during the process. Although the signature that we can see on the canvas today is not an actual signature by Boldini, it also does not appear as a forgery, but rather the desire to not lose the real authorship of the painting. As an early work by the artist it shows Boldini’s experimental phase and therefore is very precious and rare for the Italian master.

Private Collection, United States;

Private Collection, United Kingdom

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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. 

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