Giovanni Boldini was occasionally called upon to paint the children of his fashionable clients. Every bit as dramatic and carefully produced as his portraits of their parents, paintings such as Portrait of Giovinetta Errazuriz are among Boldini's most compelling works. He seems to have enjoyed a very free hand in posing and presenting his youngest clients, and all his portraits of children reveal a level of individuality and personality that was seldom accorded children in contemporary portraiture.
Only ten years old when she sat for Boldini, Giovinetta comes across in her portrait as a challenging customer, assured and commanding as she locks the artist and viewer in her gaze. Whether Giovinetta chose her own costume, or whether Boldini threw it together to amuse her, she is very strangely dressed. Her white bonnet, with its double rows of ruching, was intended for a four or five year old child; the black velvet cape pulled askew across her shoulders and the tightly furled umbrella were walking costume for a grown woman. Still, the coloring of Giovinetta's outfit complements her dark eyes and rosy cheeks and she wears the disparate garments with aplomb. Boldini treated her unusual garb with the same attention to flourish and detail that he employed for adult clients.
As Giovinetta slides down on the satin cushions, her dress has pulled back above the top of her black stocking, revealing an inch of thigh. 'The notorious centimeter of skin,' as Boldini's wife described it, created a damaging scandal when Boldini exhibited the painting at the Venice Biennale in 1897 (although it should be noted that the French had barely noticed when Boldini presented the work in Paris, a few years earlier). Boldini's willingness to exhibit the portrait in important presentations suggests he himself recognized no leering irony in his conception of Giovinetta. It is much more likely that his deliberate inclusion of the detail (which he could easily have painted out) was part and parcel of the ambiguities presented by Giovinetta herself, a self-assured coquette, halfway between childhood and womanhood, still too innocent to fully understand her own power to charm.
Giovinetta Errazuriz was the daughter of Madame Josephina Alvear de Errazuriz, a prominent Chilean expatriate living in Paris during the 1890s.
Boldini's affection for his painting of Giovinetta is underlined by the 'portrait of a portrait' which he kept in his studio: a painting of his workshop with the present Portrait of Giovinetta propped aslant in the center (fig. 1).
This catalogue entry was written by Alexandra Murphy.
Oil on canvas
Paris, Exposition Nationale des Beaux-Arts, May 1892, no. 138 (as 'Mlle. E.')
Munich, VI Internationale Kunstausstellung 1892 zu München
Chicago, World's Columbian Exposition, May-November, 1893
Venice, Biennale, 1895, no. 37
New York, Wildenstein and Co., Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Boldini 1845-1931, March 20-April 8, 1933, no. 14
Padua, Palazzo Zabarella; Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Boldini, January 15-September 25, 2005, no. 102 (as Ritratto della Giovinetta Errazuriz)
Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti; Williamstown, Massachusetts, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Giovanni Boldini in Impressionist Paris, September 20, 2009-April 25, 2010, no. 94 (as Portrait of Miss Errazuriz (Ritratto della giovane Errazuriz)
79 1/4 by 39 3/4 in. 201.3 by 101 cm
G. Geffroy, La vie artistique, vol. II, Paris, 1893, pp. 304-5
William Walton, World's Columbian Exposition MDCCCXCIII: Art and Architecture. The Art, Philadelphia, 1893, vol. 2, pp. 77-8
New York Evening Post, March 27, 1933, illustrated
Emilia Cardona, Boldini, Parisien d'Italie, Milan, 1952, p. 104
Dario Cecchi, Boldini, Turin, 1962, p. 134
Carlo Ragghianti and Ettore Camesasca, L'Opera completa di Boldini, Milan, 1970, no. 232, p. 108, illustrated
Giovanni Piazza, Boldini, Milan, 1989, p. 298
P. Zatti, "Boldini e la Prima Biennal (1894-95)," 800 Italiano, vol. II, no.6, Florence, 1992, p. 39
Piero Dini and Francesca Dini, Giovanni Boldini 1842-1931, Catalogo Ragionato, Turin 2002, vol. I, p. 300; vol. II, pp. 138, 150; vol. III, p. 317, no. 582, illustrated (as Ritratto della Signorina Errazuriz (Mlle E.)
Tiziano Panconi, Boldini L'opera completa, Firenze 2002, p. 337, illustrated
Sarah Lees, Richard Kendall and Barbara Guidi, Giovanni Boldini in Impressionist Paris, exh. cat., New Haven, 2009, pp. 192, 211, illustrated pl. 94
Baron Maurice de Rothschild (acquired directly from the artist)
Thence by descent
Sale: Christie's, New York, November 1, 1995, lot 15 (purchased by Edmond Safra for Republic National Bank)
Property from HSBC's Corporate Art Collection (and sold: Sotheby's, New York, October 26, 2004, lot 124, illustrated)
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
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