La coiffure, like many of Zandò’s favorite subjects, was taken from the late nineteenth century life of the Parisienne. However, while fellow Italian expatriates like Giuseppe de Nittis and Giovanni Boldini (see lot 49) favored painting fashionably dressed ladies strolling along the Bois de Boulogne or luxuriating in chicly designed interiors, Zandò generally preferred portraying women and girls observed in the private moments of their everyday life: reading letters, sewing, chatting, or as in the present work, attending to their coiffure. In the late nineteenth century, women typically grew their hair long, wearing it up through the day, making brushing and styling a necessary, if time consuming, ritual (Dumas, n.p.). Zandò depicted the practice in his first Impressionist exhibition work of 1879, Mère et fille, and through careful observation of pose and gesture used the routine chore to convey mood and feeling in a composition praised for its realism (Charles Moffet, The New Painting, Impressionism 1874-1886, exh. cat., The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1986, p. 307) (fig. 1).
Like Mère et fille, La coiffure depicts an older woman, perhaps a maid, attending to the hair of a younger girl. In the Fondazione Enrico Piceni's 2006 catalogue raisonné, La coiffure is placed between 1885-1894, and is likely painted toward the later date given the reapperance of the screen in the artist's Devant le miroir dated 1896 (no. 321). As such, the present work expands upon Zandò’s early Impressionist experiments and the theme and subject would be built upon by artists such as Degas’, seen clearly in his compositions of the period (fig. 2), and would later be boldly reinterpreted by Pablo Picasso (fig. 3). The cropped perspective of La coiffure creates an intimate space and demonstrates Zandò and Degas' shared influence by Japanese prints and photography while Zandò’s young sitter has rich, auburn hair as do many of Degas' models. With her tresses falling against pale skin and thick strands clasped in her maid's hand, Zandò emphasizes the tactile, sensual aspect of the daily coiffure. The mirror the standing woman holds is missing in an earlier pastel variation (or preparation) (fig. 4), and its inclusion here demonstrates how a simple prop is brilliantly employed by Zandò to convey mood and feeling. The woman looks toward the girl for direction, yet her obscured face, like the mirror’s reflection, reveals little, suggesting her indecision over the day’s hairstyle. Just as the critic Joris-Karl Huysmans suggested when seeing Mère et fille, the intimate composition and subtle yet sophisticated figure placement of La coiffure invites the viewer to interpret a painting “done on the spot, executed with none of the grinning faces so dear to ordinary daubers of genre subjects… [and] without too much or too little detail” (as quoted in Moffet, p. 333).
While Zandò’s working habits and compositional choices linked him to Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as well as Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot, his works are specific to him and his Italian heritage. Works like La coiffure earned him the additional nickname of “Le vénitien”, stemming from his luminous yet subtle use of color which recalls the work of the Macchiaioli, and points toward the Italian Divisonists and Symbolists Giuseppe Pelizza da Volpedo or Giovanni Segantini.In the present work, Zandò builds dabs and dashes of paint to create abstract patterns of wallpaper and curtain textile while subtle shifts of whites and greys capture the cool milky surface of lamp glass and pink highlights suggest warm light on freshly combed hair. The complex intertwining of tone and texture parallels the artist’s pastel compositions after the mid-1880s (Dumas, p. 21).
Born from multiple inspirations and painted with his own vibrant and carefully honed technique, a masterwork like La coiffure is distinctly “Zandò”. The painting perfectly illustrates the artist’s recollection that “looking, listening, arguing, I was transformed like all other artists, from Pissarro to Degas, from Manet to Renoir; my artistic life was a series of infinite evolutions that cannot be analyzed, that cannot be explained… As for my technique, a very vague term, the one I used was my own, I did not borrow from anyone (as quoted in Piceni, 1991, p. 60).
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