Impressionist & Modern Art

Art Imitating Life: The Roaring Twenties to Post-War Glamour

By Julia Sylvester

O f the many lovers taken by Tamara de Lempicka throughout her long and racy life, the wildly handsome Marquis Guido di Giralamo Sommi Picenardi stands as one of her few male companions to be immortalized in a portrait. A descendent of Italian nobility and an avant-garde musician, Sommi was the subject of numerous paintings by the infatuated artist.  


Given Sommi’s ravishing looks, it’s not difficult to see why de Lempicka chose to immortalize him in her work. Sporting a wide-lapelled coat and a fur collar conveyed through thick impasto paint, Sommi is every bit the emblem of masculine fashion. Depicting Sommi in the Cubist-influenced style of the Roaring Twenties, de Lempicka decorates her subject with the trappings of wealth characteristic of the socialites and aristocrats in her work.  While de Lempicka would take numerous lovers throughout her life, the Italian clearly held particular importance – his portrait stayed with its creator for over 30 years. 

One can see how such a dashing portrait would appeal to Morton Ribyat and Kenneth Paul Block, the man known as “the last great fashion illustrator” (Vanity Fair, April 2009). Block brought the runway to the post-war elite through his elegant sketches of each season’s couture shows. His subjects ranged from Jacqueline Kennedy to Babe Paley, showcasing a modern version of the glamorous lifestyle shared by de Lempicka and Sommi.    

Portrait de Guido Sommi will be offered alongside Pablo Picasso’s Le Peintre et son modèle in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on November 14.   

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