Portrait of Mrs Scaramanga signed and dated 'G. Jakobides/1895' (upper right) oil on canvas 67 x 52 cm.
PROVENANCE: Alexander Filadelfeas, nephew of the Ralli-Scaramanga family. Private collection, Athens.
EXHIBITED: Athens, National Gallery and Alexander Soutzos Museum, Jakobides Retrospective, 14 November 2005-30 January 2006.
LITERATURE: Olga Metzafou-Polyzou, Jakobides, Athens 1999, Adam Editions, p. 154 (illustrated). Olga Metzafou-Polyzou, Jakobides Retrospective, National Gallery Editions, Athens 2005, no 132 (p. 237 illustrated).
A marvel of skilful craftsmanship painted at the height of Jakobides' creative powers, Portrait of Mrs Scaramanga is not just a richly painted piece of modelling but also a fine example of penetrating portraiture. Sharing in the artist's pleasure in his virtuosity, the viewer also follows him beneath the surface in his search for a deeper pictorial truth; in his attempt not only to adroitly capture the contours of the sitter's face and the wavy lines of her wrinkles, but most importantly to narrate the stories and experiences that lie beneath them.
A member of one of the oldest, wealthiest and most prominent families from the island of Chios that had moved to Trieste as early as the 1820s and excelled in trade and shipping ventures throughout the 19th century, 1 Mrs Scaramanga is handled by Jakobides with honesty and sensitivity, bringing out her noble personality without having to conceal the realities of her age. As noted by O. Mentzafou-Polyzou who prepared the artist's monograph, "in Portrait of Mrs Scaramanga, 1895, although the sitter's pose is that of conventional portraits, the artist relies on the transient effects of light to capture her mood and expression at that given moment in time. The countenance of the elderly noblewoman from Trieste with her dark clothes and brightly illuminated face emerges against a background highlighted by the composition's multiple luminosities. Coming from the left, the light source is directed on the woman's face before it diffuses, smoothening out her deep wrinkles. The light picks up on the purple dress under the dark overcoat and especially on the white headpiece, which reflects the work's colour scheme, while the intense red of the ribbon undermines the work's overall sombre atmosphere." 2
Portraiture preoccupied Jakobides throughout his illustrious career both during his years in Munich and following his return to Greece in 1900. Portraits of his German and Greek friends, as well as those of royalty and many prominent members of Greek society, established him as a leading portraitist of his time. Writing in 1912, author Pavlos Nirvanas claimed that "Jakobides is the best guarantee for the highest quality of work, like a surgeon performing an operation. Individuals who would have gone to Europe to have their portraits done, now have them painted in Greece." 3
1. See A. Delis, 'Scaramanga Family' in Encyclopedia of the Hellenic World, Athens 2007. 2. O. Mentzafou-Polyzou, Jakobides [in Greek], Adam publ., Athens 1999, p. 156. 3. P. Nirvanas, 'The Painter of Children' [in Greek], Pinakothiki journal, 12 (1912-13), no. 138, August 1912, p. 100.