Federico Beltran Masses (Spanish, 1885-1949) Pola Negri y Rudolph Valentino
Lot 106AR
Federico Beltran Masses
(Spanish, 1885-1949)
Pola Negri y Rudolph Valentino
Sold for £149,000 (US$ 199,161) inc. premium

Lot Details
Federico Beltran Masses (Spanish, 1885-1949)
Pola Negri y Rudolph Valentino
signed 'F. Beltran Masses' (lower left)
oil on canvas
162 x 129.5cm (63 3/4 x 51in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 16 November 2004, lot 209.
    Private collection, Spain.

    The Polish actress Pola Negri (1897- 1987) was born Barbara Apollonia Chalupiec. She was an only child and, growing up, lived an impoverished life. Her mother worked to maintain a small apartment in a Warsaw slum and her father never returned after being incarcerated for revolutionary activity. After briefly attending the Imperial Ballet school, she transferred (due to illness) to the Imperial Academy of Dramatic Arts – and thus began her illustrious career. She became one of Poland's leading actresses as well as a Hollywood star. She was incredibly beautiful, with piercing green eyes, milky white skin and jet black hair – a combination that enthralled men and women alike.

    Negri had a tumultuous love life (at one point she was engaged to Charlie Chaplin), which she continually dramatised and flaunted in public. One of her most controversial affairs was with the American heart-throb actor Rudolph Valentino, just before his premature death at the age of 31. In the wake of his death, fans lined the streets in mourning, and it is said that Negri sent more than 1,000 red and white roses spelling out 'POLA' to be placed near his coffin.

    Federico Beltran Masses was born in Cuba in 1885 and spent his childhood in Barcelona. He studied at the acclaimed Escola de la Llotja, under Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. Masses was known as a portrait painter of the rich and famous, depicting royals, leaders of high society and, in particular, women with a habit of attracting scandal. Masses' paintings were extremely popular during his lifetime and his distinctive style set him apart from his contemporaries.

    In the present lot, Masses depicts the two lovers in an ethereal night-time setting, capturing the couples' elegance and their penchant for drama. Negri's seductive, feminine qualities are highlighted through the splashes of red on her nails and lips, her famously elegant hands, and the large jewel sparkling on the fabric of her dress. Valentino, in a languorous pose to Negri's right, holds a guitar and, by gazing away from the viewer, adds to the dreamlike atmosphere of the scene.
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