The portrait of Penelope Deligiorghis Drossini oil on canvas 94 x 73.5 cm. (37 x 29 in.)
Provenance: By descent to the present owner.
Originally from the Tyrol, Pige settled in Greece where he painted the portraits of prosperous individuals on the islands of Hydra, Corfu, Aegina and Syros. He was known only as the unknown (artist) of Hydra until 1956 when the 20th century artist Nikos Kessanlis discovered his identity by chance. A portrait in the Voudouris Collection was found to bear the inscription Ydra 7/ 19 Aprile 1857/ Francesco Pige di/ Tirolo/ pinxit. Since then many works have been assigned to the artist based on stylistic comparisons.
Painted towards the end of the 1850s, this elegant portrait depicts the sister of Epaminondas Deligeorgis, who was Prime Minister of Greece at six different times. She was also the wife of Athanasios Drossinis. The work bears all the traits that characterize the artists works: a meticulous attention to detail, subtle modelling of facial features and a tendency to a naive style without, however, losing touch with a strong sense of realism.
An expression of gentle introspection graces the young womans face. Her doe-like eyes and porcelain complexion are sensitively rendered. She stands on the terrace of her home, leaning on a table, as if she has just risen from her chair, having been interrupted from her reading. The dark volumes of her dress are alleviated by the delicate lace collar and the soft white fabric at the lower edge of her sleeves. In her left hand she holds a small red book, an indication of her breeding and learning. Obviously the daughter of a prosperous family, she is nevertheless modestly dressed and wears only a few pieces of jewellery a pair of dainty earrings and slender rings on her left hand.
In this work, Pige successfully conveys the ambitions of the rising middle class in mid-19th century Greece to leave behind the memories of four centuries of Ottoman rule and to bring themselves on an equal footing socially and economically with their European counterparts.
Borrowing traditional motifs from Renaissance portraiture, the artist has depicted a partial view of Athens with the Acropolis and the Temple of Zeus in the distance, symbols of the ancient legacy of the modern Greek nation which came into being in 1832. To the right is a classical column while farther back, in the semi-shadows, is a marble stele crowned with an urn and a lyre carved in relief on the front all emblems of the glorious past of ancient Greece.