PROPERTY SOLD TO BENEFIT YOUNGARTS, THE CORE PROGRAM OF THE NATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR ADVANCEMENT IN THE ARTS
Signed Modigliani (lower right)
Leopold Zborowski, Paris
Galerie Bing, Paris
Jonas Netter, Paris (in 1929)
Frank Crowninshield, New York (1938)
Etienne Bignou, Paris
Belien, Brussels (in 1953)
Edward A. Bragaline (in 1971)
Private Collection (sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 1, 1996, lot 44)
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
New York, De Hauke & Co., Paintings by Amedeo Modigliani, 1929, no. 26, illustrated in the catalogue (with incorrect provenance)
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Great Portraits from Impressionism to Modernism, 1938, no. 26
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, La Femme dans l'art français, 1953, no. 92
New York, Acquavella Galleries, Amedeo Modigliani, 1971, no. 22, illustrated in color in the catalogue (titled Madame Hébuterne à la cloche)
André Salmon, Modigliani, sa vie et son oeuvre, Paris, 1926, illustrated pl. 3
Arthur Pfannstiel, Modigliani, Paris, 1929, illustrated opposite p. 27
Carl Einstein, Die Kunst des 20 Jahrhunderts, Berlin, 1931, illustrated p. 294
Seigo Taguchi, Modigliani, Tokyo, 1936, illustrated pl. 5
Raffaello Franchi, Modigliani, Florence, 1944, illustrated pl. 8
Modigliani, Pascin, Soutine, Palestine, 1944, illustrated pl. 7
Raffaello Franchi, Modigliani, Florence, 1946, illustrated pl. XIII
Rivista di Livorno, Omaggio a Modigliani, Livorno, July-August 1954, illustrated pl. 9
Arthur Pfannstiel, Modigliani et son oeuvre, étude critique et catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1956, no. 120, illustrated p. 75
Ambrogio Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani, Peintre, Milan, 1958, no. 83, illustrated (titled Jeanne Hébuterne (au chapeau), as dating from circa 1916-17 and catalogued as oil on canvas)
Ambrogio Ceroni & Leone Piccioni, I dipinti de Modigliani, Milan, 1970, no. 174, illustrated p. 96
Osvaldo Patani, Amedeo Modigliani, Catalogo Generale, Dipinti, Milan, 1991, no. 179, illustrated p. 193 (as dating from 1917 and catalogued as oil on canvas)
Jeanne Hébuterne (au chapeau) is one of Modigliani's first major portraits of the woman whose image came to define his art. Jeanne Hébuterne was born on April 6, 1898 and was just 19 when she met Modigliani while studying art at the Académie Colarossi in 1916. For the next three years until his death in 1920 and her tragic suicide the following day, she would be his constant companion and muse, immortalized in a number of portraits. Although Jeanne was an artist herself, she remains known primarily through Modigliani's portraits of her. By the time he started depicting Jeanne, the artist had developed his mature style, and the portraits of her, painted during the last three years of his life, are among his most refined and accomplished works.
The present portrait of Jeanne in a neatly-fitting cloche hat was completed during the first intense months of the couple's relationship, and the excitement that the artist must have felt at this nascent stage in their love affair is evident in his rendering. The surface texture of the composition, executed in areas with generous strokes of paint, appears to be almost jewel-encrusted, especially when considering the sitter's sapphire-blue necklace and eyes. The twinkling eyes, in fact, possess a liveliness that was unusual for Modigliani's depictions and perhaps indicate a special quality that attracted him to this young woman. If this picture was meant to impress his new paramour, one might imagine that it succeeded. For the rest of Modigliani's life, Jeanne would be at the artist's side, inspiring the most sensual and powerful compositions of his oeuvre.
Having refined his style and technique, Modigliani imbued his portraits of Jeanne with an emotional and psychological dimension unique within his work, as described by Claude Roy: "In most pictures of Jeanne we find a very discreet, deliberately subdued color orchestration [...] in the softness of the colors, the fragile delicacy of the tones and the exquisite discretion with which relationships between the picture elements are stated, we cannot fail to sense the expression of a love no less discreet than ecstatic. Modigliani is speaking here almost in a whisper; he murmurs his painting as a lover murmurs endearments in the ear of his beloved. And the light bathing the picture is the light of adoration" (Claude Roy, Modigliani, New York, 1958, pp. 112-13).
Jeanne Hébuterne (au chapeau) synthesizes the bold stylistic traits which Modigliani developed in his post-1916 portraits: the geometric simplification of the female form; the S-shaped curve of her body; the elongated neck; the head tilted to one side with almond shaped eyes that prevent the viewer from communicating with the sitter, enveloping her in an enigmatic and impenetrable mood; the stylized, accentuated line of her nose; and the pursed, small mouth with sensuous lips. This neo-mannerist style that characterised Modigliani's painting is partly derived from the artist's fascination with the Old Masters of his native Italy. As Werner Schmalenbach wrote: "Historical associations impose themselves: echoes not only of the fifteenth-century Mannerism of Sandro Botticelli but of the classic sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Mannerism of Pontormo, Parmigianino and perhaps also El Greco. One work often mentioned in connection with Modigliani's late portraits of women is Parmigianino's Madonna dal collo lungo; Pontormo's St. Anne Alterpiece is equally relevant. Modigliani had a sound knowledge of Italian art, and we must assume that he was well aware of all this, however direct or indirect the actual influence" (Werner Schmalenbach, Modigliani, Munich, 1980, p. 42).
Apart from these historical influences, Modigliani was well aware of the artistic developments of his own time. Although he never subscribed to the syntax of Cubism, he adopted some of its stylistic devices, such as the geometric simplification and break-up of forms. He was close to the sculptors Ossip Zadkine and Jacques Lipchitz, both of whom were strongly influenced by Cubism. Even more important, perhaps, was his relationship with Brancusi, whom he met in 1909. Brancusi not only encouraged him to carve directly in stone, causing him to virtually abandon painting for several years, but also gave the most convincing demonstration of how influences from the widest possible range of sources – tribal, archaic, Asian and African – could be transformed into a personal idiom of the greatest originality. Although Modigliani never developed a style as close to abstraction and as far removed from the world of natural appearances as that of Brancusi, he was strongly influenced by Brancusi's simplified forms, reducing his sitters' faces to a few highly stylised features. What distinguishes Modigliani's portraits is the balance between his unique mannerism and stylization on one hand, and a naturalism and interest in the psychology of his sitters on the other.
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