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1884 - 1920
Seated Nude - c.1906
Black crayon; 43 x 27.7 cms; stamped with the Paul Alexandre collection mark.
Provenance: Dr Paul Alexandre, Paris, who acquired it directly from Modigliani.
By descent to the present owner.
Reproduced: The Unknown Modigliani, by Noël Alexandre [the youngest son of Paul Alexandre]
Page 325 [no. 296], Fonds Mercator, 1993.
The above major monograph on Modigliani’s pre-1914 drawings is dedicated by Noël Alexandre:
To my friend Richard Nathanson whose enthusiasm and artistic sensibility have encouraged me to publish this account.
Simone Martini was among the early Italian artists who deeply impressed Modigliani. The pose and expression of this early ‘Seated Nude’ can be compared with that of the Madonna in the Martini painting [reproduced below] which Modigliani would avidly have studied in the Uffizi during his 1902 stay in Florence. It is the Madonna’s sense of foreboding; a premonition of her son’s terrible fate which would, I believe, have particularly moved Modigliani – perhaps in relation to the perceived brevity of his own life given his near fatal early illnesses.
In 1901, at the age of 17, he wrote to his artist friend Oscar Ghilia:
I am trying to formulate with the greatest lucidity the truths of art and life I have discerned scattered amongst the beauties of Rome. And as their inner meaning becomes clear to me, I shall seek to reveal and to rearrange their composition, I could almost say metaphysical architecture, in order to create out of it my truth of life, beauty and art.
It is the gulf between this tentatively drawn figure and the realisation of his already dreamt of artistic, spiritual vision which makes this drawing so poignant and fascinating. Yet it emits a quiet seriousness and pathos evident throughout Modigliani’s work.
Simone Martini, ‘The Annunciation’ detail. The Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
This drawing is the third or final of four studies of the same model reproduced in The Unknown Modigliani. All come from the same sketchbook and would have been drawn in rapid succession as Modigliani sought to express the essence of what he found touching and beautiful in his subject.
The photograph of Modigliani below may have been taken around the same time. For me, both convey a sense of youth and vulnerability – and of having embarked upon an inner journey.
Exhibited: Modigliani Drawings from The Collection of Paul Alexandre at;
Venice, Palazzo Grassi, September 1993 – January 1994.
Montréal, Museum of Fine Art, February – April 1996.
Rouen, Musée des Beaux Arts, July – October 1996.
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