Little known outside of Paris during his lifetime, Modigliani is now recognized as one of the greatest figurative painters of the early twentieth century. His distinctive nudes and portraits of friends from the vibrant artistic community of Montmartre display his characteristic use of bold contours, long oval faces, and elongated bodies.
Born in Italy to Jewish parents, Modigliani moved to Paris in 1906, where he joined the vibrant artistic community of Montmartre. There, he met artists Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brancusi, who were pushing forward new modernist forms of art-making and appropriating the formal qualities of African art then circulating in Paris. The reductive nature of Modigliani’s compositions owes to both of these influences and to the artist’s admiration for classical Italian Renaissance painting, which he learned about as an art student in Florence and Venice.
Jeanne Hébuterne (1898–1920) was a young aspiring artist when she met Modigliani in March 1917. They fell in love and moved to the Côte d’Azur, where Jeanne gave birth to their daughter. After returning to Paris in May 1919, Modigliani’s health deteriorated, the result of alcohol and drug abuse, poverty, and childhood afflictions. The artist died on January 24, 1920; Jeanne, pregnant with their second child, died by suicide two days later.
During their tragically short partnership, Modigliani depicted Hébuterne more than twenty times, typically emphasizing her thick auburn hair and blue eyes. These sensitive portraits are among the artist’s best known works. Here, he presents her in a white chemise, gracefully seated in a large chair. Her left hand touches her cheek in a pensive expression, as her head gently tilts to the right. The asymmetrical composition and sitter’s elongated form evidence Modigliani’s citation of sixteenth-century Italian Mannerist painting, which incorporates these qualities to achieve an exaggerated elegance.
Credit Line:Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Nate B. Spingold, 1956
Inscription: Signed (upper right): modigliani
[Leopold Zborowski, Paris]; probably Gaston Monteux, Paris and Cap d'Antibes (1923–d. 1927; by descent to Reichenbach); his daughter and son-in-law, Germaine Monteux and Bernard Reichenbach, Paris (probably 1927–37; his sale, "Tableaux Modernes Provenant de la Collection de Monsieur R. B...," Hôtel Drouot, Paris, June 3, 1937, no. 18, as "Déshabillé au fauteuil," sold for Fr 30,000 to Bing); [Galerie Bing, Paris, 1937–51; sold in 1951 to Lindon]; [Jacques Lindon, New York, 1951; sold on September 26, 1951 to Spingold]; Mr. and Mrs. Nate B. Spingold, New York (1951–56; their gift to MMA)
Paris. Bing & Cie. "Modigliani," October 24–November 15, 1925, no. 4 or 19 (as "Madame Modigliani" or "Portrait de Madame Modigliani").
London. Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd. "Amedeo Modigliani, 1884–1920," March 17–April 9, 1938, no. 20 (as "Portrait d'Hébuterne assise," 1918).
Paris. Galerie de France. "Modigliani, 1884–1920: Peintures," December 21, 1945–January 31, 1946, no. 30 (as "Portrait de Madame Hébuterne," 1918).
New York. Paul Rosenberg & Co. "Collectors' Choice: Masterpieces of French Art from New York Private Collections," March 17–April 18, 1953, no. 26 (as "Portrait of Mme. Hébuterne," 1918, lent by Mr. and Mrs. Nate B. Spingold).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nate and Frances Spingold Collection," March 23–June 19, 1960, unnumbered cat. (as "Jeanne Hébuterne").
Edinburgh. Royal Scottish Academy. "Modigliani," August 17–September 15, 1963, no. 45 (as "Jeanne Hébuterne [en Chemise]").
London. Tate Gallery. "Modigliani," September 28–November 3, 1968, no. 45.
Waltham, Mass. Dreitzer Gallery, Spingold Theater, Brandeis University. "Nate B. and Frances Spingold Collection," June 11–16, 1965, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Selection One: Twentieth-Century Art," February 1–April 30, 1985, no catalogue.
National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. "Modigliani," July 19–September 29, 1985, no. 124.
Nagoya. Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery. "Modigliani," October 23–November 7, 1985, no. 124.
Canberra. Australian National Gallery. "20th Century Masters from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," March 1–April 27, 1986, unnumbered cat. (p. 37).
Brisbane. Queensland Art Gallery. "20th Century Masters from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," May 7–July 1, 1986, unnumbered cat.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Italian Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1900–1988," January 14–April 9, 1989, no. 64 (as "Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne").
J[acques]. L[assaigne]. "Une Rétrospective Modigliani." Panorama des arts (January 1946), ill. p. 11, as "Jeanne Hébuterne".
Pierre Descargues. Amedeo Modigliani, 1884–1920. Paris, 1951, pl. 42, as "Portrait de Hébuterne assise," in the collection of Jacques Lindon.
Paolo D'Ancona. Modigliani, Chagall, Soutine, Pascin: Some Aspects of Expressionism. Milan, 1953, pp. 23–25, ill. (color), calls it "Mme Hébuterne Seated"; dates it 1918 in the text and 1917 in the caption.
Alfred M. Frankfurter. "Collectors and Million-Dollar Taste." Art News 52 (March 1953), p. 25, ill.
Arthur Pfannstiel. Modigliani et son œuvre. Paris, 1956, p. 153, no. 290, calls it "Jeune fille en chemise (Mme H.)" and dates it 1918; erroneously locates it as still in the Jacques Lindon collection.
Ambrogio Ceroni. Amedeo Modigliani, peintre: Suivi des "souvenirs' de Lunia Czechowska. Milan, 1958, p. 69, no. 152, ill. (color), as "Jeanne Hébuterne (en chemise)," 1918; erroneously locates it still in the Spingold collection.
John Russell. Modigliani. Exh. cat., Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh. 1963, p. 21, no. 45, colorpl. 30, dates it late summer or autumn 1918 during Hébuterne's first pregnancy.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, p. 241, ill., note that it was probably painted before Hébuterne gave birth in November 1918.
Ambrogio Ceroni. I dipinti di Modigliani. Milan, 1970, pp. 104–5, no. 326, ill. [French ed., 1972], calls it "Jeanne Hébuterne in Camicia" and dates it 1919; erroneously lists it as still in the Spingold collection.
J[oseph]. Lanthemann. Modigliani, 1884–1920, catalogue raisonné: Sa vie, son Oeuvre complet, son art. Barcelona, 1970, p. 131, no. 347, ill. p. 251, calls it "Jeanne Hébuterne, le doigt à la joue" and dates it 1919.
Bernard Zürcher. Modigliani. London, 1981, pp. 23–24, 31, colorpl. 69.
Claude Roy. Modigliani. 2nd rev. ed [1st ed., 1958]. New York, 1985, p. 96, ill. p. 126 (color), as "Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne in a Chemise," 1918.
Terence Measham in20th Century Masters from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., Australian National Gallery. Canberra, 1986, p. 37, ill. (color) and back cover (color), dates it 1918 when Hébuterne "was almost certainly pregnant"; notes that among the more than twenty known portraits of Hébuterne, this is the only one depicting her less than fully dressed.
William S. Lieberman. 20th Century Art: Selections from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Vol. 1, Painting: 1905–1945. New York, 1986, pp. 30–31, 63, ill. (color, overall and detail).
Gary Tinterow et al. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 8, Modern Europe. New York, 1987, p. 125, colorpl. 103, date it 1918, noting that it was painted in the south of France during Hébuterne's first pregnancy.
Thérèse Castieau-Barrielle. La Vie et l'œuvre de Amedeo Modigliani. Paris, 1987, p. 220, ill. (color), calls it "Portrait de Jeanne Hébuterne en chemise".
Osvaldo Patani. Amedeo Modigliani: Catalogo generale. Vol. 1, Dipinti. Milan, 1991, p. 328, no. 338, ill. (color), dates it 1919.
Christian Parisot. Modigliani: Catalogue raisonné. Ed. Giorgio and Guido Guastalla. Vol. 2, Peintures, dessins, aquarelles. Livorno, 1991, pp. 340–41, no. 11/1919, ill. p. 240.
Anette Kruszynski. Amedeo Modigliani: Portraits and Nudes. Munich, 1996, pp. 74, 119, ill. p. 71 (color detail), dates it 1918.
Christian Parisot. Modigliani: Catalogue raisonné. Vol. 4, Témoignages. 1996, p. 29, publishes the reminiscences of Jacques Guérin, who states that in 1923 Gaston Monteux purchased "un grand portrait de Jeanne Hébuterne" [see Provenance].
The Reader's Digest Collection. Sotheby's, New York. November 16, 1998, p. 106, under no. 25, fig. 4 (color).
Christian Parisot et al. inModigliani e i suoi: Jeanne Hébuterne, André Hébuterne, Georges Dorignac, Amedeo Modigliani. Exh. cat., Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice. Borgaro Torinese, 2000, pp. 227–28, 236, no. 142, ill. p. 215 (color), date it 1919, during Hébuterne's second pregnancy.
Christian Parisot. Modigliani: La Vita le opere. Rome, 2006, ill. p. 287 (color).
Kathleen Brunner inModigliani and His Models. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 2006, p. 150, notes that Modigliani made about twenty-five portraits of Hébuterne.
Jeffrey Meyers. Modigliani: A Life. Orlando, 2006, p. 210.
Sabine Rewald inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 176, 237, no. 131, ill. (color and bw), notes that Modigliani painted twenty-some-odd portraits of Hébuterne.
Sabine Rewald inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 208, 278–79, no. 192, ill. (color and bw).
Marc Restellini. Le Silence éternel: Modigliani-Hébuterne 1916–1919. Paris, , p. 142, compares it to "Jeanne Hébuterne aux épaules nues" (1919; private collection).
Christoph Vitali, ed. Amedeo Modigliani: Ein Mythos der Moderne. Exh. cat., Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn. Cologne, 2009, pp. 128, 182, no. 117, ill. (color).
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