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Portrait of a Lady

October 13, 2010

Mademoiselle de Nemidoff

In an era before “swishing” had come to mean a party where you swapped clothing cast-offs, Time magazine called painter Giovanni Boldini the “Master of Swish”. Presumably for his whirl of brushstokes- his bold, impressionistic style. Boldini (1842-1931) was much in demand in the Edwardian ‘Belle Epoque’ for his dashing portraits of equally dashing Society “beauties”…

Lady Colin Campbell

It was an age of lace and ribbons and fripperies, of clothing excess, and the problem perhaps for the really savvy portrait painter was doing justice to his sitter’s expensive finery, AND his sitter’s own personality. Do we think he’s successful?

Josephina Alvear de Erraruiz

Doesn’t he manage to make these lavish Edwardian gowns look effortless to wear- when I think we all know they weren’t? And effortless even with his sitters in the most unnatural contorted poses, calculated to enhance that achingly fashionable Edwardian S-bend silhouette. Boldini’s portraits have, in their movement, something of a photographic air- you can almost imagine his subject has just turned as a camera shutter clicks…

Madame Juillard in Red

Boldini’s women are certainly no shrinking violets. They confront the viewer with a smile. They lean out fearless toward us to meet our gaze. (And am I mistaken or do all of them have a vaguely… flirtatious… expression that makes me wonder if Boldini, Italian born but a painter of the Paris School, was a bit of a charmer? Or was it that he had that happy knack of making his sitters feel that they were beautiful?)

Lady Nanne Schrader

In the exuberance of these lavish portraits (whatever shortcomings they may have) I can’t help feel that Boldini captures a little of that joyous Edwardian excess which would soon, with the arrival of the first world war, be a misty tulle-covered memory…

Marchesa Luisa Casati with a greyhound, 1908

Portrait of Elizabeth Wharton Drexel, 1905

All images from Wikimedia Commons.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2010 4:13 pm

    I absolutely *love* these. I recognize several but didn’t realize it was the same artist! I think I have a new favorite :)
    Many thanks for posting this!

    • glassoffashion permalink*
      October 13, 2010 9:17 pm

      You are very welcome Lauren! Glad you like ’em :)

  2. October 14, 2010 5:16 am

    Aren’t these paintings just wonderful! Not only does he make the wearing of these dresses appear effortless, but he also makes his painting look effortless too, which I am equally sure it is not! I have never seen that striking painting of Luisa Casati before, although I recognised her from photos even before I saw her name. I adore Josephina’s wasp-striped yellow and black dress, divine!

  3. Sid permalink
    October 14, 2010 3:12 pm

    Beautiful, and romantic. Oh yes, and so flirtatious. Who wouldn’t want to flirt wearing one of those lovely gowns! You wouldn’t even need to put much effort into the flirt with those beautiful necklines. Thanks for posting them.

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