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  • Giovanni Boldini
    Dec 31, 1842 - Jul 11, 1931
  • Count Robert de Montesquiou 1897 - Giovanni Boldini was an Italian genre and portrait painter. According to a 1933 article in Time magazine, he was known as the "Master of Swish" because of his flowing style of painting. Having worked in Florence and London, he reached his peak of creativity and success in Paris, painting romantic vignettes and portraits. His works are distinguished by the bravura of the brushwork.
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Count Robert de Montesquiou 1897
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  • Count Robert de Montesquiou 1897

  • Giovanni Boldini
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  • 1897
    Oil on canvas
    116 x 82.5 cm
    Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France.

    In 1897, Boldini was engaged, through a mutual friend, Madame Veil-Picard, to paint the portrait of Count Robert de Montesquiou. The painter could not fail to be attracted to the personality of this man of letters, the archetypal, contemporary aesthete and new incarnation of the Baudelarian dandy.

    The work reflects both the complexity of the painter's relationship with the model, and the theories of the "modern portrait" set out by Montesquiou in an article, coincidentally, on Boldini ("Painters of Women - Boldini", Les Modes, January 1901). In it he states that the art of portrait painting lies not in photographic verisimilitude, but in the ability to blend the personality of the painter with that of the model. This would make Boldini a modern portraitist par excellence, as in his works he reveals the model's innermost character while at the same time expressing his own opinion.

    In this painting, the artist is not content with highlighting Montesquiou's aristocratic elegance, nonchalance and refinement. He holds a cane like a sceptre, transforming it into a symbol of royalty. Boldini appears to be illustrating the first verse from one of Montesquiou's poems in his volume Chauve Souris: "I am the sovereign of transitory things". By putting together a pose taken from the great tradition of 16th and 17th century portraits with an image of modernity, was Boldini wishing to introduce a little irony in regard to Montesquiou's fanatical aestheticism? This is how many commentators at the time interpreted this portrait.

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Other paintings by Giovanni Boldini:

The Woman in Red
The Woman in Red
Portrait of Emiliana Concha de Ossa (Femme aux gants)
Portrait of Emiliana Concha de Ossa (Femme aux gants)
Portrait of a Young Man
Portrait of a Young Man
A Friend of the Marquis
A Friend of the Marquis
Giovanni BoldiniGiovanni Boldini was an Italian genre and portrait painter. According to a 1933 article in Time magazine, he was known as the "Master of Swish" because of his flowing style of painting.

Boldini was born in Ferrara, the son of a painter of religious subjects, and went to Florence in 1862 to study painting, meeting there the realist painters known as the Macchiaioli. Their influence is seen in Boldini's landscapes which show his spontaneous response to nature, although it is for his portraits that he became best known.

Boldini attained great success in London as a portraitist. From 1872 he lived in Paris, where he became a friend of Edgar Degas. He also became the most fashionable portrait painter in Paris in the late 19th century, with a dashing style of painting which shows some Impressionist influence but which most closely resembles the work of his contemporaries John Singer Sargent and Paul Helleu. He was nominated commissioner of the Italian section of the Paris Exposition in 1889, and received the Légion d'honneur for this appointment.

Boldini died in Paris in 1931.