Head of a Woman with Veil

Head of a Woman with Veil
Jean-Louis Forain (French, 1852-1931)
c. 1878-1880
Oil on canvas 
13-7/8 x 10-7/8 in. (35.2 x 27.6 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Jennifer Jones Simon 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Not on View

Though Jean-Louis Forain participated in four of the eight Impressionist exhibitions, this early portrait speaks more clearly to his kinship with Édouard Manet than it does to the light and airy palette he would inherit from the group and adopt later in his career. The blacks and deep blues in the sitter’s hat, hair, veil and coat contrast with the stark white of her collar and the creamy background that delineates her pink face. The strict profile pose is reminiscent of Renaissance portraiture, and yet the gravity of the picture, too easily assumed by the sobriety of the color, is somewhat lifted by her polka-dotted veil and the feathery mound of her fabric hat. Portraits of women wearing the latest in millinery trends were extremely common at the time, and artists such as Manet, Degas and Renoir had explored similar subjects. The draw of this particular subject may also be attributed to the wide circulation of fashion plates in
magazines displaying seasonal trends. However, the realistic pronouncements of this bourgeois sitter’s pudgy chin and ruddy cheeks, completely absent in those idealized illustrations, speak instead to Forain’s focus on the details of a real sitter.


Alfred Beurdeley, Paris (sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 6-7 May 1920, lot 63, as Tête de femme, to);
[Jacques Dubourg, Paris].
G. R. A. van Stolk, Bergen.
[E. J. van Wisselingh & Co., Amsterdam, stock no. S8849, by 1971, sold 19 September 1972 to];
Norton Simon, acc. N.72.10.P. (sale, New York, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 2 May 1973, lot 5, as Tete de femme a la voilette);
(sale, London, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 4 December 1980, lot 527, ill., as Tête de Femme à la Voilette, bought-in);
Norton Simon, acc. N.81.3.P., gift of the Trust 1997 to;
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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