(Livorno 1859 - Firenze 1893)
Portrait of Donna Ludovica Altieri (1904)
Measures: 49,7 x 40 cm
Technique: oil on canvas
Signed and dated upper left: “25-2-904 / Corcos”
Provenance: Heirs of the family Altieri (since 1904)
Exhibitions: Corcos. I sogni della Belle Epoque, curated by I. Taddei, F. Mazzocca, C. Sisi (Padua, Palazzo Zabarella, September 6 – December 14 2014), Venice: 2014, pp. 116, 195.
This canvas depicting donna Lodovica Altieri in profile is certainly a preparatory sketch for the final portrait. It is one of the studies described by Ojetti as “the most beautiful of his paintings; life-sized heads, drawn with firmness and treated with a flowing and frank brushstroke that shapes and colours heads that are sometimes a little caricatured, so much so that in the first encounter with the model, this clever Tuscan wants to discover and capture their character, one could say their secret” (Il conte Ottavio 1907, pp. 377-380). Compared to the final work, a half-length portrait in a sumptuous silk and feather evening dress, this profile has a more intimate, almost meditative tone. Sitting in the artist’s studio, wearing a fur stole under which we glimpse a red day dress, the noblewoman is rendered with quick strokes and a photographic framing that reveals her shoulders and neckline. A sketchy contour line follows the profile, while the brush focuses on certain details such as the ear with the pearl earring, and the light flowing through the auburn hair. A few unruly locks reinforce the sense of immediacy of the composition, as does the date inscribed in the top left-hand corner, which dates the posing session to 25 February 1904 – a winter day that matches the model’s clothing. The rosy glow of the complexion, which combines Bonnat’s lesson with the Florentine academic tradition, is striking. Daisies appear in both paintings, a tribute to her future husband Margherito Guidotti whom Lodovica Altieri would marry in a second wedding on 31 July 1904, and with whom she would have four children: Olga, Buona, Lorenzo and Emiliano. Born in Gattaiola near Lucca on 20 October 1877, Donna Ludovica was the daughter of Don Lorenzo dei principi Altieri and Princess Olga Cantacuzene, a talented painter and writer. Pendant coeval to the final painting is the portrait of Princess Cantacuzene herself, a work of the same dimensions, but with warm tones that contrast with the cold tones of her daughter’s effigy.