“Boldini knew how to reproduce the dazzling sensation that women felt to arouse when they were seen in their best moments.” With these words Cecil Beaton, one of the first and most famous fashion photographers of the twentieth century, sanctioned the talent of the Ferrarese painter in portraying the voluptuous elegance of the cosmopolitan élite of the Belle Époque, in knowing how to celebrate their ambitions and their refined narcissism.
Affirmed in Paris between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the center of gravity of every trend of elegance and modernity, Boldini gave life to a portraiture formula chic and “fashionable” with which he immortalized the protagonists and celebrities of a mythical era, from Robert de Montesquiou to Cléo de Mérode, from Lina Cavalieri to the Marquise Casati.
In her work, fashion has played an essential role: initially grasped for her being the quintessence of modern life, an element that anchors the work to modernity, fashion – understood as a dress, accessory, but also a sophisticated expression that transfigures the body in place of desire – soon becomes an essential and distinctive attribute of his portraiture. Thanks to a captivating painting, which combines a nervous and dynamic brushstroke to the emphasis of mannered and sensual poses aimed at enhancing the silhouettes of the models as much as the lines of their clothes, and with the complicity of the great couturier creations such as Worth, Doucet, Poiret and the Sisters Callot, Boldini affirms a personal declination of the portrait of society that becomes a real canon, a model of style and tendency that anticipates formulas and languages of cinema and glamor photography of the twentieth century.
The exhibition will therefore investigate, for the first time, the long and fruitful relationship between Boldini and the Parisian high fashion system and the reverberation that this had on his work as a portraitist as well as that of painters such as Degas, Sargent, Whistler and Paul. Helleu. Sorted in themed sections, each patronized by writers who sang the grandeur of fashion as an art form, from Baudelaire to Wilde, from Proust to D’Annunzio, the festival offers an exciting journey through paintings, marvelous period dresses and precious objects with an iconic value that will tell the relationship between art, fashion and literature in the Belle Époque and immerse the visitor in the refined and sparkling atmospheres of the French metropolis and in all its elegant hedonism.
Exhibition curated by Barbara Guidi with the collaboration of Virginia Hill
Organized by the Ferrara Arte Foundation and the Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art of Ferrara
Giovanni Boldini, Gladys Deacon, 1916. Blenheim Palace Heritage Foundation