Lot 8
  • 8

Giovanni Boldini

100,000 - 150,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Giovanni Boldini
  • Woman at the Piano
  • signed Boldini (lower left)
  • oil on panel
  • 4 1/8 by 4 1/2 in.
  • 10.4 by 11.4 cm


Woodbury G. Langdon (1849-1919) and Sophia Elizabeth Montgomery Langdon (1857-1941), New York (probably acquired in the early twentith century and possibly by descent)
Thence by descent through the family


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work has been recently restored and should be hung in its current condition. The only retouches are down the left and right edges, which mainly serve to subdue the white original surround so that the work can fit in its frame. There are no retouches to the main body of the work.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

While the 1870s marked a stylistic shift in Boldini’s work toward lavish eighteenth century scenes, it simultaneously reinforced his interest in contemporary subjects depicted in an intimate format, like  Woman at the Piano. The immediacy of the work is striking, although the narrative is left open for interpretation. The woman wearing a boldly contrasting red patterned shawl and black ruffled dress has either just come into the room or more likely is waiting to go out -- her yellow gloved hands holding a closed umbrella while an upturned top-hat, walking stick, and coat tossed over a chair point to an unseen gentleman. The thinnest application of red paint creates a bemused smile as the woman looks down at a crouching cat. The interior décor resembles that of other Boldini works, including another Woman at a Piano (fig. 1, sold in these rooms January 26, 2011, lot 54), the gleaming wood of the instrument with its gold candelabra, the floral pattered rug, and bright blue upholstered chair appear in both paintings, suggesting this is a space Boldini knew well. In the carefully-organized composition, expressive brushwork invigorates the scene: the horizontal swipes that make up the cluttered pile of musical scores atop the piano; a loose arrangement of flowers, and the pearly gray Meissen cockatoo. 

Recently discovered, Woman at the Piano reveals Boldini’s astonishing ability to capture a wealth of visual detail on a small scale, each stroke of paint and color choice carefully calibrated to create an intricately described composition. By the time of Woman at the Piano’s execution, Boldini had been influenced by Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier’s (1815-1891) small-scale, highly detailed compositions.  While works like Woman at the Piano follows Meissonier’s lead, Boldini paints his subject with a lively brushwork and jewel-like palette that places him boldly among his French contemporaries. Works like Woman at the Piano appealed to new European and American collectors and through the early 1870s Boldini’s dealer Adolphe Goupil was eager to accommodate this ready market.  While it has yet to be determined exactly when Woman at the Piano came to the United States, it has long been held by generations of the Langdon family, themselves descendants of Dorthea Astor, daughter of the great entrepreneur and art collector, John Jacob Astor.