Il fondo rosa (Portrait of Bibi Zögbe) also reflects the influence of the Italian Mannerists in the way that de Lempicka has exaggerated the sitter’s neck and bare shoulders and renders her round eyes in a dramatic fashion. The elegant simplified angles and planes of the body, shaped into shaded curvilinear forms, is characteristic of her former teacher André Lhote, a cubist who worked alongside many of the fathers of Modern art. De Lempicka explained the close cropping of her figures in the frame: ‘People had thought I made a mistake, I had chopped off a piece of their heads. But I wanted it to look like the people ran in and out, leading their busy lives (quoted in Laura Claridge, Tamara de Lempicka: A Life of Deco and Decadence, New York, 1999, p. 82). The cropping of the portrait might further evoke images of icons or saintly figures, imbuing this work with an almost religious zeal.
The sitter for the present work, Bibi Zögbe, was a Lebanese painter and friend of de Lempicka’s in the 1920s. She emigrated to Argentina in the early 1900s where she had several successful exhibitions and became known as “La Pintora de las Flores (The Painter of Flowers)”. Bibi had moved to Paris in the early 20s, spending time with the avant-garde and with Argentinian artists, her work being exhibited in both Paris and Buenos Aires, and it is in this context that she would have met De Lempicka. This striking portrait of Zögbe was included in de Lempicka’s important first solo exhibition hosted by Count Emanuele Castelbarco at the Bottega di Poesia on 28th November 1925.
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