Amedeo Modigliani’s Jeanne Hébuterne (au foulard), a major highlight the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in London, reveals a tender moment between a pioneering Modernist and his loyal muse and is among the artist’s most refined and accomplished works.
AMEDEO MODIGLIANI, JEANNE HÉBUTERNE (AU FOULARD). ESTIMATE UPON REQUEST.
He had moved from his native Italy to Paris in 1906, settled in the bohemian artist quarter of Montmartre, where he quickly developed a reputation as a drunk and drug user. However, his escalating intake of drugs and alcohol may have been a means to mask the tuberculosis he suffered from; those who had the illness were feared and ostracised and Modigliani’s penchant for camaraderie meant that he could not bear to be isolated from his avant-garde milieu.
As a painter he forged a unique style, inspired by a fascination with the Old Masters and the influence of the avant-garde artists he knew in Paris. One of his most frequent – and most recognisable – subjects was Jeanne Hébuterne, whom he met in 1917 when she was a young art student. For the next three years she was his constant companion and muse. The two were devoted to each other, and, despite her family’s protestations, he pledged to marry her.
Modigliani’s final years were marked by tragedy as his illness and addiction worsened. In January 1920, after not hearing from him for several days, a neighbour found Modigliani in bed, delirious and holding onto Jeanne. Not long after, the artist died of tubercular meningitis and following his funeral, a 22-year old, and reputedly heavily pregnant, Jeanne was taken to her parents' home where she committed suicide by leaping from an upstairs window.
AMEDEO MODIGLIANI, JEANNE HÉBUTERNE (AU FOULARD) AT SOTHEBY'S, LONDON
Painted in 1919, the serene calm of Jeanne Hébuterne (au foulard) is in sharp contrast to the heartbreaking drama to come. The rich yet subtle colours attest to an emotional and psychological dimension unique to the portraits of Jeanne and shows Modigliani in full command of his highly refined aesthetic. The poignant depiction of a youthful Jeanne is the greatest of Modigliani’s portraits of her to appear at auction in a decade.
Having been in a private collection since 1986, the work will be offered alongside Pablo Picasso’s Cubist portrait of his lover Fernande Olivier in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening sale on 21 June.