Blowing bubbles bears signature and date 'Boldini 73' (lower left) oil on panel 11 1/4 x 16in (28.5 x 40.6cm)
PROVENANCE: Cary Grant, Los Angeles, California
EXHIBITION: New York, New York, The New York Cultural Center, Nineteenth Century Paintings in American Collections,, 15 November 1972 - 31 December 1972, (as Boldini)
Although the attribution of the present work to Boldini cannot presently be confirmed, Blowing Bubbles is clearly the work of a very talented artist. It is similar in conception to the small paintings commissioned of Boldini by Adolphe Goupil during the 1870s. These paintings were created especially to meet the demand of the rising middle class. Many artists, especially in France and Italy such as François Soulacroix and Vittorio Reggianini, were producing similar works on various scales at this time.
These paintings were small, jewel-like compositions which celebrated the perception that life was more civilized during the 18th Century, before the intrusion of the Industrial Revolution. These pictures are populated by members of the upper classes, dressed in sumptuous fabrics, residing in elegant interiors and engaging in whimsical pastimes the perfect decoration. Influenced by the work of the master of the small-scale painting, Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, these pictures were intended to convey a sense of monumentality, with their many figures, richly-decorated interiors and a myriad of textures.
Blowing Bubbles is a particularly fine example of this genre. The characterization of the figures is expertly done, and the exuberance of the younger members of the soirée is expertly captured. The brushwork is fine without being deliberate and the handling of the paint echoes the whimsical nature of the subject matter. Despite the virtuoso handling of the silks and satins, the real focus of the painting is the bubbles themselves. The bubbles represent the fleeting nature of youth and the artist has achieved a realistic rendition of the most ephemeral of creations, and his ability to convey the transparency and translucence of the bubble is an extraordinary feat of painting.