Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lady in Pink

It's a very romantic tale, involving amour, art, war & Paris. What's not to love about this portrait, of one Mme. Marthe de Florian, completed in Paris around 1898. The beautiful Madame was 24 when she sat for the painting, and of course she had many admirers~

It is a slightly coquettish painting, with her dress slipped just off her shoulder yet still held firmly there by her long, slender fingers. In her other hand she holds a white flower (or is it pinned to her dress?)~ purity? She is proper & demeure, not looking at the painter/viewer, but the corners of her mouth are turned up in a slight smile. "Admire me, yes, am I not beautiful?" Yes, this is a very private work between the muse and her admirer, and a love note to her on his calling card was also found. The painter was pushing 60 years old to her 24; "look but don't touch," I think she's saying. Hehe. It was not uncommon at the time for married women to receive letters of affection from other men. Mme. de Florian in fact kept her various letters tied up with ribbons color-coordinated by sender. Welcome to France, in Another Era.

The painter was the Italian Giovanni Boldini, who came to Paris in 1871 and was heavily influenced by English portraiture. He was a contemporary of the very masterful John Singer Sargent. Here is another Boldini, done later~ 1911, Princesse Marthe Bibesco, now in a private collection~
Similar pose, similar hair, similar loose slightly impressionistic 19C portaiture brushstrokes around a very tight core portrait; again I love how he has shown her slim fingers, and composed her in a classic triangular pose drawing your eye right up her delicate arms to her coiffed head and tiara, revealing her elegant neckline; she is graceful but fixed, the background and clothing seeming to show movement. In both paintings, if feels like the room is spinning, as we are intoxicated by the beauty of these delicate women; ahh yes, it all works well, fantastic...

Here is a Boldini self-portrait; he also painted portraits of prominent members of society and other painters, including Whistler and Degas; the brushstrokes on the background are very current 19C; according to Time magazine in 1933 he was known as "the Master of Swish"~
The painting was in the possession of Madame's grand-daughter, who decided just before WWII that it was a good time to leave Paris and retire to the South of France (ya think?). She was never to return. She recently passed at the age of 91, but the rent or maintenance on the Paris flat had been paid for all these years. The flat, untouched for 70 years, was opened by an auctioneer; like a fine time-capsule, sprinkled with fine Parisian dust. Here, apparently, someone has done the dusting~
So much to love about this room; the painted furniture, books & letters on the open bookcase at left; paintings & mirrors...
The painting sold recently at Hotel Drouot (worth another post) for about $3 million. It took the auctioneer some time to investigate & authenticate the painting's provenance. Fascinating story behind a fascinating painting...


  1. Can you imagine going into a flat like that and seeing all the treasures it has held secret for so many years. a dream.
    I love the second painting, the hard and soft edges. I'm also a fan of Sargent, his work is absolutly amazing.
    Ha ha, love 'the swish', I'm going to try some 'swish' on my next painting!
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. So fascinating .... what a wonderful story, and what beautiful paintings!
    $3 million ... amazing! Who bought it? I'm sure there were many many more treasures at her home.


  3. Nancy, I knew you would love this; you know the language....Sargent, a dream....amazing amazing amazing. hard to imagine the grand-daughter was 20-something herself when she left, though she lived like this....the book and reading cart, the china, the paintings....Ahhh....

  4. What a very interesting story and the paintings are just gorgeous! When I was looking at the paintings, especially the first one I was thinking what beauty but I was also thinking that pose of hers must have been very hard to keep all those hours she sat for the artist! Thanks for sharing this lovely story!

  5. Andrea, this is a breathtaking post, the art portraits, the flat, oh my!!

    Come see I have you in my sidebar along with Metis Linens!


    Art by Karena

  6. wow, utterly amazing. Thank you SO much for introducing me to this artist!

  7. красивые картины! и интерьер!

  8. Andrea, What a beautiful post and facinating story! The story behind art are as head spinning as the work itself!
    I am so inspired!

  9. What a fascinating story, indeed!
    The artwork is beautiful, and the room is just heavenly!

    I also wanted to stop by to thank you again!
    My basket arrived a couple of days ago, filled with gorgeous presents.
    The lavender has filled my bedroom with the most glorious scent!
    The soap is too beautiful to use!
    I'm going to have to work on my culinary skills before using the gourmet herbs and salts!
    Or perhaps your gifts will improve my cooking on their own :)
    Thank you again for everything.

    xo xo

  10. I am so thrilled to win Laura's wonderful giveaway. And that basket is something I will soooo cherish!

  11. It was so great to finally meet you in person on Sunday!
    I wish you and Laura much success with Metis!
    I included Metis in my last post.
    I hope you like it!

  12. Ah you beat me to the punch! Well done~bravo. I am just swooning over this art.

  13. You're so right -the story behind some of the art is sometimes more fascinating than the actual art! I'm off now to find out more about Hotel Drouot.