Neapolitan Beauties signed and dated 'V. Corcos 85.' (lower right) oil on canvas 114.7 x 61cm (45 3/16 x 24in).
PROVENANCE: with Thomas McLean, London Private collection, UK
Neapolitan Beauties was painted in 1885, during Vittorio Matteo Corcos' crucial years in Paris from 1880-1886. The artist had been encouraged to travel to Paris by his tutor in Naples, Domenico Morelli, with whom he had studied for the previous two years. Upon his arrival in the French capital he worked exclusively with the prominent art dealer Adolphe Goupil, who also represented Corcos' close Italian contemporaries, Giovanni Boldini and Giuseppe de Nittis. Corcos was also influenced by Leon Bonnat, portrait painter to the Parisian bourgeoisie and he quickly established himself as part of the elite art circle. It was the works painted and exhibited at the Paris Salon during this period which gained him a reputation as the 'peintres des jolies femmes' a soubriquet given to him by The Times correspondent Henri De Blowitz, which remained with him throughout his career. These works featured graceful ladies immersed in the height of fashionable Parisian life; at the Opera, or along the boulevards. His sharp observation and accomplished technique, together with a strong sense of composition, rendered these works some of the most sought after of the time. Neapolitan Beauties is no exception. It is a striking depiction of two elegantly dressed Neapolitan ladies posed with their dog on the promenade; the flawlessly painted surface, devoid of any evidence of the artist's brush, perfectly displays the subject's porcelain skin and beauty. All attention is focused on the elegant subjects and the omission of a narrative focuses the viewers attention on the beauties within a frieze-like arrangement leading the viewer's eye from one to the other.
Corcos returned to Italy in 1886 with his reputation established. In 1887 married Emma Ciabatti, the widow of James Rotigliano. It was through this marriage that Corcos came into contact with intellectuals such as Carducci and Gabriele D'Annunzio. His portraiture was especially well received in Florentine cultural and aristocratic circles, which were the source of many commissions. By the turn of the 20th century he was one of Italy's and indeed Europe's pre-eminent portrait painters. In 1904 he painted portraits of Wilhelm II, the Empress, and latterly portraits of Queen Amelia of Portugal and Margherita of Savoy. In 1912 Corrado Ricci, previous director of the Galleria degli Uffizi, requested a self-portrait for the gallery's collection. Corcos completed this in 1913, and the work remains in the Uffizi's collection today.