Leopold Zborowski, Paris
Collection Libaude, Paris
Galerie Bing, Paris
Jean Masurel, Paris
Roger Dutilleul, Paris (before 1929)
Mrs. Masurel-Dutilleul, Paris
Sale: Christie's, New York, May 14, 1997, lot 42
Acquired at the above sale by the previous owner
Zürich, Kunsthaus, Italienische Maler, 1927, no. 103 (titled as Le gosse du concierge)
Paris, Galerie de France, Modigliani, 1884-1920: Peintures, 1945-46, no. 27 (titled as Le gosse du concierge)
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Amedeo Modigliani, 1884-1920, 1981, no. 57
Waldemar George, "Modigliani," L'Amour de l'Art, October 1925, Paris, illustrated p. 385
André Salmon, Modigliani, sa vie et son oeuvre, Paris, 1926, illustrated pl. 30
Giovanni Scheiwiller, Modigliani, Paris, 1927, illustrated pl. 16
Giovanni Scheiwiller, Modigliani, Paris, 1928, illustrated pl. XIV
Arthur Pfannstiel, Modigliani, Paris, 1929, illustrated p. 106 (titled as Le gosse du concierge)
S. Taguchi, Modigliani, Tokyo, 1936, illustrated pl. 24
Nietta Aprà, Tormento di Modigliani, Milan, 1945, illustrated p. 96
Giorgio di San Lazzaro, Modigliani, Paris, 1947, illustrated pl. VII
Giovanni Scheiwiller, Amedeo Modigliani, Milan, 1950, illustrated p. 16
Arthur Pfannstiel, Modigliani et son oeuvre, étude critique et catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1956, no. 243, p. 134
Giovanni Scheiwiller, Modigliani, Zürich, 1958, illustrated pl. 57
Ambrogio Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani, dessins et sculptures, Milan, 1965, no. 213, illustrated p. 49
Csorba Geza, Modigliani, Budapest, 1969, illustrated pl. 34
Ambrogio Ceroni, I dipinti de Modigliani, Milan, 1970, no. 239, illustrated p. 100
J. Lanthemann, Modigliani, 1884-1920: Catalogue raisonné, sa vie, son oeuvre complet, son art, Barcelona, 1970, no. 305, illustrated p. 240
Ambrogio Ceroni & Françoise Cachin, Tout l'oevure peint de Modigliani, Paris, 1972, no. 239, illustrated p. 100
Thérèse Castieu-Borrielle, La vie et l'oeuvre de Amedeo Modigliani, Paris, 1987, illustrated p. 163
Christian Parisot, Modigliani, Catalogue raisonné, vol. II, Livorno, 1991, no. 17/1918, illustrated p. 201
Osvaldo Patani, Amedeo Modigliani: Catalogo generale, dipinti, Milan, 1991, no. 251, illustrated p. 255
Modigliani painted Le fils du concierge, one of his most significant and accomplished male portraits, while living on the French Riviera at the end of the First World War. In April of 1918, the artist and his companion Jeanne Hébuterne left Paris for the southern coast to live through the remaining years of the war in relative safety. After spending years immersed in the bohemian circles of Paris with its avant-garde painters and wealthy patrons as the subjects of his portraiture, Modigliani now turned to the simple peasant workers and children of the Midi. The artist had a profound reaction to these new models, and the portraits from this period are distinct within his oeuvre (see figs. 2 and 3). Just as alluring as many of his compositions of adult women, this arresting image of the son of a local concierge is one of the most transfixing in all of the artist’s portraits.
As Werner Schmalenbach writes, “It was precisely at this time that Modigliani became the painter of simple, unknown, nameless people. He painted portraits of ordinary men and women: a gardener, an apprentice, a young peasant, a chambermaid, a woman druggist, and occasionally a child – people from a social background other and ‘lower’ than his own. This sprang not from any hankering after social comment but from an intense interest… they convey a reticent but forcefully expressed inner sympathy, and they achieve great poignancy” (Werner Schmalenbach, Amedeo Modigliani, Paintings, Sculptures, Drawings, Munich, 1990, p. 43).
Though he spent these final years of his life distant from the active scene of Paris, Modigliani was acutely aware of the artistic developments taking place. Many of his fellow artists and friends, such as Picasso, Brancusi and Soutine, were shifting from realistic depiction to the edges of abstraction (see fig. 4). Though able to explore these new styles and techniques, Modigliani preferred to discover the possibilities of interpretation within a more naturalistic approach to depiction. Something he undoubtedly shared with the other avant-garde artists, however, was a reverence for the important legacy of Cézanne. In much of his portraiture, Cézanne employed broad brushstrokes that simplified his subject while simultaneously deepening the breadth of expression (see fig. 5). As he painted Le fils du concierge, Modigliani adopted a similar approach to the interpretation of his subject, imbuing simple and broad strokes with emotional profundity. What distinguishes Modigliani’s portraits is a delicate balance between a unique interpretation of artistic legacies and trends on the one hand and a naturalism and interest in the personality and psychology of his sitters on the other. James Thrall Soby writes that Modigliani “… was far from being simply a realist. On the contrary, he solved repeatedly one of modern portraiture’s most difficult problems: how to express objective truth in terms of the artist’s private compulsion. The vigor of his style burns away over-localized fact… [his portraits] are believable and wholly in character, yet they would be limp and unimaginable without his guiding animation” (Modigliani: Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, (exhibition catalogue), Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1951, p. 10).
This unmatched ability for emotional expression through portraiture renders Le fils du concierge a remarkably personal and intimate depiction. The palette of soft colors confers a feeling of tranquility on the painting, while the eyes of the sitter convey an ineffable sense of melancholy. On the subject of Modigiliani’s portraits from his time in Cagnes, Lionello Venturi writes, “At this time, Modigliani’s attitude toward and depiction of his models became calmer and more peaceful. The apprentice, the porter’s son, the maid in Cagnes, little Maria, the two girls in Paris, all enter Modigliani’s pictorial world with a sad dignity. Their interior vision, captured in a private dream, accentuates their solitude and at the same time enshrines their morality with a poetic halo. Their status in life is certainly not a happy one, but they possess nobility and moral values. They are the most convincing witnesses of the beauty and goodness of mankind” (Amedeo Modigliani, (exhibition catalogue), Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne, 1981, p. 89).
In its early history, the present work belonged to Léopold Zborowski, who became Modigliani’s dealer after the end of the artist’s contract with Paul Guillaume. Zborowski, who arrived in Paris in 1913, was introduced to Modigliani in 1915 by Moïse Kisling, who lived in the same building. Although he did not open a gallery until 1926, Zborowski began to deal in art from his own apartment. This portrait was subsequently in the collection of Modigliani’s great patron, Roger Dutilleul (see fig. 6). As one of the first significant collectors of 20th century avant-garde art, Dutilleul played an essential role in supporting the creative development of some of the most daring artists in Paris. He served as patron to Léger, Picasso, Braque and, perhaps most prominently, Modigliani. His perspicacity and discriminating taste were renowned during the early decades of the 1900’s, and his eye for recognizing artistic talent rivaled that of the greatest collectors of his day.
FIGURE 1 The artist in his studio
FIGURE 2 Amedeo Modigliani, Garçon à la veste bleu, 1918, oil on canvas, sold: Sotheby’s, London, June 21, 2004, lot 6
FIGURE 3 Amedeo Modigliani, Jeune homme roux, 1919, oil on canvas, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris
FIGURE 4 Chaim Soutine, L’idiot du village, 1919, oil on canvas, Musée Calvet, Avignon
FIGURE 5 Paul Cézanne, L’Enfant au chapeau de paille, 1902-04, oil on canvas, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
FIGURE 6 Amedeo Modigliani, Roger Dutilleul, 1918, oil on canvas, Private Collection
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