Woman with Velvet Ribbon

Femme au ruban de velours

This portrait stands out for the purity and stylisation of the facial features. The figure, with its empty eyes without pupils, looks like an adaptation in painting of the experiments Modigliani carried out in his sculptures of Têtes [Heads] and in the drawings and sketches of Caryatids. It is a mask-like face that also reflects the artist’s interest in African and Oceanic Arts.
The background, rendered entirely in curves, is a landscape, which is very unusual in Modigliani’s work. We can make out two trees, on the right and left of the model. The dark tones of the background provide a strong contrast with the face.
The painter uses broken and modulated brushwork, leaving the white of the canvas visible. This form of “Divisionism” comes from Modigliani’s experiments in the period 1914-1915. It appears in a more radical form in his portraits of Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera dated 1915. Only the hair and the black ribbon are rendered in a solid surface of deep black.

Provenance: Paul Guillaume (1929); Domenica Walter