(Ferrara 1842 - Parigi 1931)
Young Lady with her Dog
Measures: 73 x 54 cm
Technique: oil on canvas
Signed lower left: “Boldini”
Provenance: Maurice de Rothschild, Paris; Galleria Borgonuovo, Catalogo della vendita all’asta della raccolta A. Lurati, Milan, April 1929, n.152, tav. 50.
Bibliography: L’opera completa di Boldini, curated by E. Camesasca, 1970, p. 99, n. 98; B. Doria, Giovanni Boldini. Catalogo generale degli archivi Boldini, 2000, n. 153; P. Dini-F. Dini, Boldini. Catalogo ragionato, 2002, vol. III, tomo I, p. 197, n. 350.
The refined elegance of Boldini’s female portraits from the 1980s, archetypes of a modern Parisian life such as Young Lady with Dog, allowed him to make an impression among the most important collectors of the time, including Maurice Edmond Charles de Rothschild — descendant of the family of bankers that owned this painting and a friend of Boldini’s. His collection included some of the most extraordinary and famous female portraits of the painter’s production, including Portrait of the Marchesa Luisa Casati, with a Greyhound and Portrait of “La Giovinetta” Errazuriz, sold at a 1995 Christie’s auction in New York.
Considered a rebel by his family, unbridled lover of art, fashion and social life, Maurice de Rothschild nevertheless managed to follow in the footsteps of the wealthy family with some brilliant investments. Friend of scholars and painters such as Count Robert de Montesquiou, famous aesthete and arbiter of elegance and a very close friend of Boldini’s, he moved with ease from the most elegant international salons to adventurous travels, including several explorations in Africa where he studied the local fauna and wrote some scientific articles dedicated to the discovery of a new species of lizard (which was later named after him).
The essence of Boldini’s bon viveur attitude — an aspect he shared with both Maurice and the poet Montesquiou — can be certainly found in the works collected by Rothschild and thus, in Young Lady With Her Dog as well. Montesquiou was also the theorist of a new way of understanding portraiture, capable of bringing the painter and the sitter together in an aesthetic vortex: Boldini is therefore “one of the happiest painters of modern women, able to render their subtle elegance, nervous and moral unpredictability, precociousness of spirit, even in an adolescent body”. This description perfectly suits the girl with the little dog, who manages to stand out from the grey background despite the thin profile of her body being wrapped in a dress of the same colour, decorated with white lace and red buttons. The delightful details of the lilac ribbon around the neck and the red bonnet, which offers a sharp chromatic contrast to match the lipstick, help the sweet profile to emerge from the background. The dynamic brushstrokes contain a refined harmony of light and colour that defines a charming femininity of which the little dog — a true status symbol — is a fundamental element, as in many other portraits by Boldini.