Irresistibly alluring, Bionda Nuda- Orizzontale forms part of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Quadri Specchianti, or Mirror Paintings, one of the most iconic and instantly recognisable series of the late Twentieth Century. Bionda Nuda - Orizzontale is completely fresh to the market, having been acquired directly from the artist in 1975; the work has been in the same Italian collection since that time. A female nude sits elegantly on a table, demurely turned away from the onlooker; yet the scene has a curiously intimate quality, as though the woman has been glimpsed totally unawares whilst luxuriating in her own space. Pistoletto’s expert framing of the scene recalls the convention of the female Odalisque, an artistic tradition that reached its apogee in the work of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century French painters such as Auguste Dominique Ingres and Jean-Léon Gérôme. Pistoletto provides an utterly contemporary reading of this art historical precedent within Bionda Nuda - Orizzontale, presenting a cleverly executed modern interpretation of an antique custom.
Seeking an innovative form of artistic expression, Pistoletto began his series of Mirror Paintings in 1961, experimenting with various techniques until perfecting the method in 1962. Photographic images, chosen to give the greatest sense of verisimilitude, were transferred onto tissue then applied to a stainless steel background; the images were silkscreened onto the steel from 1971. Pistoletto recalled the genesis of the Mirror Paintings: “I decided to make a better reflection with another material: polished stainless steel. There was objectivity in the reflected reality that told me how to realise the figure. I could no longer paint the figure as I did before: that was a pictorial solution, but it needed a photographic solution…” (the artist quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Serpentine Gallery, Michelangelo Pistoletto, The Mirror of Judgement, 2011, p. 17).
The Mirror Paintings have the remarkable effect of involving the viewer intricately within the work itself: we see ourselves reflected in the midst of the composition, adding another layer to the multi-faceted symbolism of the series. Providing a poetic chronology of his oeuvre, Pistoletto's series seems to look into the past and the future simultaneously, eluding traditional classification as it continues to reflect an ever changing world around them. This is particularly true of Bionda Nuda – Orizzontale, due to its substantial and immersive scale. As Pistoletto recalls: "In traditional painting, representation and drawing covers the entire surface. This is a static aspect that has come down through the years as a univocal signal. It can correspond to the figure that I place on the surfaces of the mirror painting, a fixed signal, an image 'snapped' at a certain moment. But in my mirror paintings the image co-exists with every present moment... In my works the current time of the future is already included in the continuous mobility of the images, in the constantly renewed present of the reflection" (the artist quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Centre, Pistoletto, Division and Multiplication of the Mirror, 1988, p. 31). There is a curiously timeless quality to Bionda Nuda – Orizzontale: the subject seems suspended in a moment, gazing out towards some unknown future, whilst also contemplating the past. Ultimately it is a work of poetic beauty and grace that deserves to be considered as a highly significant example of the Mirror Paintings.