1842-1931 | ItalianPortrait of Lucie Gérard by Giovanni Boldini
Signed “Boldini” (lower right)
Pastel on canvas
This exceptional portrait was composed by the great Giovanni Boldini, one of the most important portrait painters of the Belle Époque. The charming work captures the young, elegant French woman Lucie Gérard, the French silent film and stage actress. With its fast, impulsive linework, the pastel is typical of Bodini’s talent for depicting the comings and goings of sparkling Parisian high society. Yet, Boldini also chose a subdued color palette, which infuses the work with a distinctive modernity. As a whole, it is a stunning example of Boldini’s specialty — capturing the allure and grace of the female face and form.
Boldini was acquainted with Lucie Gérard, who was among the most famous figures of her day, appearing in operas, plays and films. Billed as Lucy Mareil later in her career, she starred in several French silent films, and her beautiful face was commonly seen on French postcards and advertisements. Here, she appears as the embodiment of the modern Parisian woman, full of elegance and joie de vivre
with her confident gaze pointed directly out at the viewer.
As a whole, it is a significant example of his work in Paris, where he moved in 1871 and became an artist of the Maison Goupil, a leading art dealership. Through the maison, Boldini became acquainted with a group of painters who would significantly influence his style, and his work became filled with a Rococo-style flair, brisk brushwork, and an overall sense of charm. The present piece exemplifies his style, particularly his distinctive talent for fast, gestural brushwork.
Along with John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler, Boldini was counted among the most highly sought after modern portraitists in Europe and America. His exuberant, bold style was particularly desirable among his increasingly fashion-conscious clientele, who admired Boldini’s simultaneously traditional and modern compositions. Indeed, Boldini’s oeuvre displays both his knowledge of the more traditional British portrait genre painters such as Sir Anthony van Dyck and Sir Thomas Gainsborough, along with the more modern Impressionists and Italian painters known as the Macchiaioli
. Once dubbed the "Master of Swish" by Time magazine for his flowing style, Boldini is regarded among the best of his genre, and today his works can be seen in important museum collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Musée D’Orsay, Art Institute of Chicago, National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, Palazzo Pitti in Florence and others.
This pastel on canvas is also featured in the artist's catalogue raisonné
Canvas: 22 1/4" high x 18 5/8" wide
Frame: 29 5/8" high x 25 7/8" wide
Possibly the La Rochefoucauld; Galleria La Fenice, Venice (their label formerly on the old backing board)
Private collection, Paris
Anonymous sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot (Couturier-Nicolay), 15 April 1988, lot 32
Private collection, France
Private collection, Rome
Paris, Hôtel Jean Charpentier, Boldini
, 1931, no.55 (‘Portait de Lucie Gérard’, lent by M. Kelekian)
P. Dini, F. Dini, Giovanni Boldini 1842-1931: Catalogo Ragionato. Vol. III: Catalogo ragionato della pittura a olio con un’ampia selezione di pastelli e acquerelli
, pt. 1, Turin 2002, p. 321, no. 590