Running from March 4th to July 16th at the Complesso del Vittoriano in Rome is Giovanni Boldini, a retrospective on artist Giovanni Boldini’s work and life. The eponymous exhibition covers pieces produced at the beginning of his career in Florence and his attachment to the Macchiaioli painters to his later dissent. Spanning 60 years of his career, the exhibit explores the world through the eyes of the artist: we are introduced to the Belle Époque at the turn of 20th century Paris where Boldini dwelled in the midst of the bourgeois and high society.
Boldini is best known for his paintings that explore a side of high society behind closed doors, showing female beauty in a candid and sensual manner, with women standing seductively in serpentine poses while displaying their chests and necks. It is no wonder these paintings sparked outrage among the public for their mysterious and sensual power.
One such painting, a portrait of Donna Franca Florio, holds an interesting history. Boldini was asked by Don Ignazio Florio a nobleman and Sicilian entrepreneur to depict his wife Franca. He began the painting but it was met with disapproval by Don Ignazio who found the work to be too provocative. He was then asked to create another portrait. It was only years later at the request of Donna Franca herself that Boldini resumed work on the first portrait that is displayed at the Complesso today. The large canvas showing the alluring Donna Franca is a perfect example of Boldini’s style of swift brush work, and the portrait today is now an eternal symbol of the Belle Époque. By walking us through different stages in Boldini’s career, the exhibition grants us a private glimpse into the cosmopolitan beauties that frequented the artist’s studio, celebrating the life of the most sought after portrait-painter of his time.