Giovanni Boldini was one of the most sought-after artists of the Parisian Belle Époque.
Nineteenth-century Paris was the capital of fashion and style, and Boldini brilliantly captured the elegance of its bourgeoisie. He had a lofty reputation as a painter of women, and the élite were eager to buy paintings from the man whose very brush could create fame.
This work belongs to a series of intimate and small-scale subjects completed during the 1870s. Boldini painted a large number of contemporary scenes depicting young women indoors, engaged in pursuits such as reading, writing, conversation, music and embroidery.
It is assumed that the woman depicted in the present lot is Boldini’s model, Berthe. She was the artist’s lover and often modelled for him. She can be recognised by her blonde hairstyle and her porcelain skin. She is playing music in a room decorated in the eighteenth-century style.
The work is executed on board and extremely well preserved, as also UV fluorescence and IR images testify. This innovative examination, unusual for watercolours, also reveals much about Boldini’s virtuoso brushwork and his method of small dabs of colour to create light and shadow effects and vibrant surfaces.
Giovanni Boldini came from a family of painters and received his training in Florence. After a long sojourn in London, he settled in Paris in 1871 and was soon represented by the powerful art dealer Adolph Goupil. His works, such as the present painting, appealed to new European and American collectors already at that time.