European Art: 19th Century

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Portrait of a Dandy (formerly Portrait of Toulouse -Lautrec), 1880-1890

Giovanni Boldini

Italian, 1842-1931
Pastel on paper
25 x 16-1/4 in. (62.9 x 41cm) (irreg.)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1974.03.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

Not on view

Trained in Italy and well established as a portrait painter by the time he moved to Paris in 1871, Giovanni Boldini, along with his close friend John Singer Sargent, is best known for capturing the likenesses of the fin-de-siècle elite. Before establishing the virtuoso brushwork and dynamism that characterize his turn-of-the-century portraits, Boldini employed a more reserved application of his medium, evidenced here. With details such as the razor-sharp, starched collar and cuffs, the sheen of a cornflower satin tie, the supple leather of maize kid gloves and the reflective pince-nez, through which the sitter averts his eyes and turns his nose up at the viewer, Boldini shows that he has clearly mastered the medium. His enduring friendship with Edgar Degas may have inspired the use of pastel to capture this archetypal dandy—once thought to be fellow painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Regardless of the identity of the sitter, the image is an exquisite depiction of a late-nineteenth-century upper-class Parisian.

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