Woman with mandolin

Tamara Lempicka • Painting, 1929, 115.9×73 cm
About the artwork
This artwork was added since it is referred to in the materials below
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Portrait
Style of art: Art Deco
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1929
Size: 115.9×73 cm
Artwork in selections: 15 selections

Description of the artwork «Woman with mandolin»

Visitors to the 41st Salon of Independent in the first months of 1930, no doubt, stopped in front of this stylish picture. "Woman with a mandolin", which is originally called La Musicienne (“Musician”), is not only a portrait, but also the embodiment of a long tradition of European painting, an allegory of music.

In 1930, Poland-born Tamara de Lempicka was a rising star whose fame in Paris reached its zenith and began to cross the Atlantic. She became one of the most sought-after portrait painters among wealthy Europeans and Americans. In addition, the artist was known as a secular lioness and the organizer of glamorous parties. The professional and social aspects of Lempicki's life were inextricably linked. Both her and her husband Tadeusz there were many extramarital affairs, and at Tamara - with partners of both sexes. She created her own independent style, which was a relatively rare achievement for a woman of that era.

This picture reminds of Tamara Lempicki's predecessor, whose destiny and work she could well know and appreciate. Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 - 1653) was the first woman in the history of European art, who achieved success, despite the case of rape and frequent humiliation by male contemporaries. Duke Cosimo II of Tuscany is supposed to have commissioned a portrait in which Gentileschi painted herself in a blue dress playing the lute. This tool often appears in the painting of the Renaissance and Baroque, but in male hands.

Lempitska did not write a self-portrait with a mandolin similar to a lute. Instead, she chose a model by her closest friend, confidante and mistress Ira Perrault, who was also married. The big brown eyes, thin oval of the face and clearly delineated lips of this woman often appear on Lempitzky's paintings, painted from 1922 to 1932.

The artist portrayed her friend in two versions of the frank "Pink Shirt" (1927 and 1928 years), a tender, sensual nursing mother in "Maternity" (1928) and again languid and seductive in "Recovery" (1932). Perrot became the heroine of one of the most impressive, carefully executed and famous large portraits of Lempitski - "Portrait of Ira P."created in 1930. However, a few years later, the artist and her friend broke up - and they never met again.

Since the late 1920s, Lempicka has worked in her fully-formed corporate identity, all aspects of which are embodied in Woman with a Mandolin. This is a combination of elements of French cubism, purism and neoclassicism, as well as its own research of the works of Renaissance masters in Italy and the understanding of modern realistic trends in Germany. In addition, she was inspired by the works Jean Auguste Dominic Engres, icons of French classicism of the 19th century, which served as a starting point for Pablo Picasso in the early 1920s.

Lempitsky's paintings were aggressively modern, but, unlike the German realists and supporters of the new materiality, she always idealized her characters. The attractiveness of her works for representatives of the social elites of that time - the traditional aristocracy and the growing layer of nouveau riche - was largely due to their complacency and passionate sensuality. The cold and urbanized vision of physical beauty of Tamara Lempitski symbolized purposeful self-confidence, personal abilities and success (1, 2, 3, 4). A direct expression of female sexuality - sensual, passionate, but still within the limits of acceptable taste - moreover, written by a woman, further enhanced the prestige of her paintings.

Having begun work on The Woman with Manolina in mid-1929, Lempitska almost completed it before her first visit to America in early October. Nine days after her arrival in New York, the stock market collapsed, and the artist lost a large amount, which she deposited in the bank. Losses were replenished, thanks to orders from wealthy Americans. Business acumen helped her land on her feet in a situation that would break or even destroy many other artists.

Returning to Paris in early 1930, Lempitska first graduated from "Woman with Mandolin." She decided to put this picture at the Salon of Independent, along with the sultry portrait of Nana de Herrera. Along the top edge of the canvas, behind the head of Ira Perrault, the artist depicted the skyscrapers of Manhattan, skillfully combining elements of figurative painting, still life, classical drapery and modern urban architecture in a consistently stylized composition, as if cast from polished steel. Its concept spans the centuries - from the Renaissance to futuristic design.

"Woman with a Mandolin" became the center of Tamara Lempicki's solo exhibition at the Galerie Colette Weil in May 1930, and also graced the cover of the April issue of Berlin magazine Die Dame. Having earned her first million by the age of 28, Lempicka in the early 30s was confident that she could feed daughter kizett and mother, and also to leave to itself dear house and studio in the Art Deco style after divorce from Tadeush in 1931. She showed pictures in her residence, and wealthy clients happily paid for the privilege of posing for the artist in a fashionable modern setting.

In May 2009, "Woman with a Mandolin" was stolen from the Sherring Museum of Realistic Art in the Dutch city of Spanbruck. Seven years later, she was found and given to an insurance company. In November 2018, the canvas was sold at Christie's auction for 9 million dollars, becoming the most expensive picture in the heritage of Tamara de Lempitski.

Author: Vlad Maslov