boldini portraits

Cléo de Mérode (1901). Giovanni Boldini (Italian, 1842-1931). Oil on canvas.

Cléo de Mérode (1875-1966), an international sensation and one of the most photographed woman in the world in her time, was a French ballerina, who achieved fame with her face, not her feet. Cléo was a good dancer but her beauty caught the public’s eye. By 13, she already had posed for Jean-Louis Forain and Edgar Degas, who often sketched her.

Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931)
“Profile of a Young Woman”
Oil on panel

Boldini was an Italian painter who lived and worked in Paris for most of his career. According to a 1933 article in Time magazine, he was known as the “Master of Swish” because of his flowing style of painting.

Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931)
“Robert de Montesquiou” (1897)
Located in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France

Montesquiou (1855-1921) was a French aesthete, Symbolist poet, art collector and dandy.

Portrait of a Lady; Mrs Lionel Phillips (1903). Giovanni Boldini (Italian, 1842-1931). Oil on canvas. Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane. 

Boldini painted with sense of dynamism and dramatic tonal contrasts. The pale flesh tones of the face contrast dramatically with the black dress and dark background. This effect is intensified by the contrast in technique, modelling of the face with the long flowing strokes of the other areas, especially her large feather fan. Boldini gives a suggestion of movement, emphasised here by the twisted pose of the figure when viewed from a high angle.

Giovanni Boldini ‘The Couple’

 Boldini’s high-energy portaits dominated the market in late 19th century France, and though perhaps too often he ‘played to the gallery’ with his undoubted skills, when he shifted towards a more personal and expressive mode, as with this vigorous representation of two lovers embracing, the result could be quite explosive.