6
6
Giovanni Boldini
ITALIAN
BETTY WERTHEIMER
6
Giovanni Boldini
ITALIAN
BETTY WERTHEIMER

Details & Cataloguing

Beyond Impressionism: Sorolla & His Contemporaries

London

Giovanni Boldini
1842 - 1931
ITALIAN
BETTY WERTHEIMER
signed and dated Boldini / 1902 lower left
oil on canvas
155.5 by 103cm., 61 by 40.5in.
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Provenance

Private collection, U.S.A. (sale: Christie's, London, 21 November 2011, lot 32)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

Exhibited

London, International Society, Sixth Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Engravers, 1906

Literature

The Graphic, 3 February 1906, illustrated (as Portrait of Mrs. E. A. Salaman)
Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti & Ettore Camesasca, L'opera completa di Boldini, Milan, 1970, p. 116, no. 343, catalogued & illustrated (as Portrait of Mrs. E. A. Salaman)
Pietro Dini, Giovanni Boldini, exh. cat., Pistoia, 1984, p. 141, cited (as Portrait of Mrs. E. A. Salaman)
Bianca Doria, Giovanni Boldini. Catalogo generale degli archivi Boldini, Milan, 2000, no. 441, illustrated (as Portrait of Mrs. E. A. Salaman) Tiziano Panconi, Giovanni Boldini. L'opera completa, Florence, 2002, p. 429, catalogued & illustrated (as Portrait of Mrs. E. A. Salaman)
Pietro Dini & Francesca Dini, Giovanni Boldini, 1842-1931: catalogo ragionato, Turin 2002, vol. I, p. 288, mentioned; vol. IV, p. 425, no. 797, catalogued; p. 427, illustrated (as Portrait of Ena Wertheimer)

Catalogue Note

The 1897 exhibition at the Boussod & Valadon gallery in New York carried Giovanni Boldini's fame overseas and launched his international success at the turn of the century. Commissions practically poured in from the 'divine' ladies - as the artist defined the well-known high-society women who wanted to sit for him.  Paris was the centre of the world at the time, the privileged theatre for all international cultural experiences and Boldini had been living there permanently since 1871 even though he did travel extensively.

Painted in 1902, the present work was most likely commissioned during the artist's brief stay in London at 39 Hyde Park Gate in July that year. Elizabeth (Betty) Wertheimer (1877 - 1953) was the daughter of Asher Wertheimer - a wealthy Jewish art merchant living in London - and Flora Joseph. Wertheimer's younger daughter, who was twenty-five at the time, is viewed frontally, against a pale wall which, along with the cold colour of her dress emphasizes her mass of upswept dark hair. Her pose and her eyes looking directly at the viewer seem to beckon, enhancing the effect of the bare left shoulder and low neckline. Her left hand holds a fan and her dress, making the drapery more sensual as it defines the curves of her body.

Betty married Euston Abraham Salaman on 18 October 1899; around a year after his death, in 1917 she married Arthur Ricketts (1874-1968). Therefore, Betty was already married to Salaman when the portrait was done in 1902, and this explains why The Graphic published it as 'Mrs. E. A. Salaman' in the article about the most important paintings shown at the International Society in 1906. This, however, has not prevented some recent confusion with her older sister, Helena (Ena, 1874-1935), who is at her right in the portrait by John Singer Sargent conserved in the Tate Gallery, London, and painted one year prior to Boldini's portrait.

Even after he left France to settle in London, Sargent was constantly in touch with artists working in Paris. Boldini frequently visited him in England and shared his circle of friends that included Asher Wertheimer, Betty's father. By that time, Sargent was the official painter of British society, and he interpreted his clients' needs differently from the Ferrarese artist. The image of Betty Wertheimer we see in the Sargent portrait is respectable and reassuring, she personifies a social group, which having become rich through capitalism, had achieved full-fledged, upper middleclass status. The portrait by Boldini, on the other hand reveals the woman's sensual charge and makes her an icon of style, through the refined clothing and accessories, which the painter selected very carefully leaving nothing to chance.

Beyond Impressionism: Sorolla & His Contemporaries

London