Giovanni Boldini (Italian, 1842-1931) Portrait of Lina Cavalieri (painted c. 1901-1902)

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Lot 58
Giovanni Boldini
(Italian, 1842-1931)
Portrait of Lina Cavalieri

Sold for £ 30,000 (US$ 38,770) inc. premium
Giovanni Boldini (Italian, 1842-1931)
Portrait of Lina Cavalieri
signed 'Boldini.' (lower right)
black chalk
12.5 x 19.5cm (4 15/16 x 7 11/16in).
painted c. 1901-1902

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Enrico Piceni, Milan
    Acquired directly from the above by the family of the present owner during the 1960s
    Private collection, Milan

    Exhibited
    Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, 1963, curated by Enrico Piceni and Emilia Cardona, the artist's widow

    Aged just fifteen, Lina Cavalieri lost both her parents and was sent to a Catholic orphanage near Rome. Disliking the strict rules of the nuns, she ran away with a touring theatrical group and moved to Paris, where she began to establish her career as a singer. She made her debut operatic performance in Lisbon in 1900, and performed widely in music halls across Europe.

    In 1905, she starred alongside Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) in Fedora at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris, a partnership which they took to New York the following year, performing at the Metropolitan Opera. Cavalieri remained at the Metropolitan Opera for two further very successful seasons, during which time she had a whirlwind romance with Robert Winthrop Chanler (1872–1930) a member of the Astor family and Dudley–Winthrop family. They married on 18 June 1910 but separated by the end of their honeymoon, and their divorce became final in June 1912.

    Her glittering international career boasted performances of La Bohème, La Traviata, Manon, Carmen and Tosca, to name a few. Often referred to as 'the world's most beautiful woman', her photograph was reproduced extensively on postcards, and was the muse for Piero Fornasetti's iconic Themes and Variations series.

    After retiring from the stage, Cavalieri set up a cosmetic salon in Paris and even launched her own perfume, named 'Mona Lina', in 1926. After marrying her fourth husband, Paolo d'Arvanni, she returned to Italy. During a bomb raid on 8 February 1944, Cavalieri and her husband delayed seeking shelter in order to save her jewellery collection from their house. They were both killed running to their air-raid shelter.


    Having settled in Paris in 1871, Boldini soon became one of the most sought after artists represented by the dealer Adolphe Goupil, for whom he produced small paintings of extraordinary quality, showing costume scenes or images of contemporary Parisian life rendered with a lively rococo style, but reflecting life in the modern metropolis.

    During the 1880s Boldini returned to painting portraits. Often on a large scale his portraits of the leading lights of Parisian Belle Époque society made him internationally famous. This drawing of the famous opera singer Lina Cavalieri is from this last period. Emilia Cardona remembers Cavalieri entering Boldini's atelier in 1901.1 Boldini produced two well-known portraits of the charming model, one owned by Maurice de Rothschild, in which Lina is depicted from the front with a demure black blouse. The second work shows her in profile wearing a white hat, which was published in the magazine Les Modes in 1902.2 This drawing refers to a third portrait of Lina (location unknown) which is only known by a series of studies which have appeared on the open market. This drawing is particularly precious, not only for the distinctive quality of the signature, but also for being the preparatory work for a lost painting.

    We are grateful to Dott.ssa Francesca Dini for confirming the attribution to Giovanni Boldini, and for her assistance in cataloguing the present lot, which will be included in the first supplement of the catalogue raisonné on the artist currently in preparation. The work will be sold with a photo-certificate from Francesca Dini.

    1E. Cardona, Boldini nel suo tempo, Milan, 1951, p.122
    2P. Dini and F. Dini, Giovanni Boldini, Catalogo Ragionato, Turin, 2002, vol.III, section II, no.782-793-788
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