(Ferrara 1842 - Paris 1931)
Nude from behind, presumed portrait of Lina Cavalieri (1874-1944)
Paper graphite, H. 280 mm; L. 255 mm.
Signed lower right, dated 1901
Provenance: Christie's London, lot 516, June 29, 2000; Me Briest, Hôtel Dassault, lot 12, sold € 42,000, June 22, 2001.
Born in Ferrara, where his father worked as a painter and art restorer, Boldini quickly left Emilia-Romagna to go to Florence in 1862. He rubbed shoulders there, outside the Academy, with the Macchiaoli group, with whom he explored the search for a new relationship with nature, more direct and immediate. Portrait painter already renowned from the age of twenty, he was hired in 1866 to produce a cycle of naturalist frescoes for the villa Falconiera in Pistoia by Isabella Falconer. This English patron opens the doors of Europe to him: in 1867, he is in Paris for the Universal Exhibition where he meets Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet who will singularly influence his pictorial approach. In 1869, he went to London, studied Thomas Gainsborough and quickly enjoyed great success among the worldly with his portraits of ladies. From 1870, he moved to Paris in the Pigalle district and began to portray "All-Paris". His success as a portrait painter certainly mundane, but also very innovative in the naturalness of the poses, both refined and eccentric, the liveliness of the electric touch and the colors, will no longer be denied. He will frequently stay in Italy, Holland, Spain and New York. A man of the world, the "master of Ferrara" was the friend of Baron de Rothschild, musician Giuseppe Verdi, novelist Colette and painters Edgar Degas and John Singer Sargent, from whom he took over the Paris studio in 1885. If his worldly portraits have made the reputation of Giovanni Boldini, one cannot avoid from his production more intimate images of the pose of his models.
Such is this nude from the back where the artist's lively touch arises in the background in areas to bring out the generous feminine forms in reserve. The curves of the body are underlined by the pencil strokes in the circular movement, which we expect in the strong compositions of the Belle Époque maestrode. The thin face and the aquiline nose can direct us towards a model of Boldini of the time: Lina Cavalieri, Italian soprane having succeeded in Paris, who will pose in front of the painter's easel on numerous occasions. A canvas produced in 1898 and entitled Il cappellino nuovo, also represents the young woman in profile.