Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
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Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)

Portrait de Joseph Lévi

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Portrait de Joseph Lévi
signed 'Modigliani.' (upper left)
oil on canvas
21 5/8 x 18 1/8 in. (55 x 46 cm.)
Painted circa 1909
Joseph Lévi (the sitter), Paris, and thence by decent to the present owner.
A. Pfannstiel, Modigliani, Paris, 1929, p. 2 (illustrated p. 16, titled 'Portrait d'homme').
A. Pfannstiel, Modigliani et son oeuvre, étude critique et catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1956, no. 22.
A. Ceroni, Modigliani: dessins et sculptures, Milan, 1965, no. 157. A. Werner, Amedeo Modigliani, Milan, 1967, no. 15 (illustrated p. 20).
J. Lanthemann, Modigliani: 1884 - 1920, catalogue raisonné, sa vie, son oeuvre complet, son art, Paris, 1970, no. 17, p. 108 (illustrated p. 164).
A. Ceroni, I dipinti di Modigliani, Milan, 1970, no. 27, p. 89 (illustrated p. 88).
F. Cachin & A. Ceroni, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Modigliani, Paris, 1972, no. 27.
C. Parisot, Modigliani: catalogue raisonné, peintures, dessins, aquarelles, vol. II, Paris, 1991, no. 13/1909, p. 269 (illustrated p. 44).
O. Patani, Amedeo Modigliani: catalogo generale, dipinti, Milan, 1991, no. 31 (illustrated p. 61).
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Modigliani, November 1933, no. 6. Cincinnati, The Contemporary Arts Center, Amedeo Modigliani: Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings, April - May 1959, no. 2 (illustrated p. 18).
Paris, Musée du Luxembourg, Modigliani: l'ange au visage grave, October 2002 - March 2003, no. 5 (illustrated p. 113).
Toronto, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Modigliani: Beyond the Myth, October 2004 - January 2005 (illustrated p. 91, pl. 5); this exhibition later travelled to Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection, February - May 2005.
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Lot Essay

Painted circa 1909, Portrait de Joseph Lévi is an important early picture by Amedeo Modigliani, as is reflected by its extensive exhibition and publication history. The picture shows a fellow artist who also worked as a restorer, Joseph Lévi, and has remained in his family's collection since it was given to the sitter by the artist almost a century ago. Notwithstanding the forceful presence with which Modigliani invests the sitter, Lévi was a kindly man who often lent Modigliani money, a service that he would sometimes repay by giving him pictures; it appears that this may well have been one of the causes for the Bohemian artist to have painted this portrait of his older benefactor. It is telling of the importance of Lévi's friendship to Modigliani that he would come to execute a portrait of his son, Gaston, three years later, a picture which is now in the Denver Museum of Art.

The thick brushstrokes and bold colour in the portrait of Lévi reveal the continued influence of the Fauve artists on Modigliani during this period. At the same time, there is a sculptural feel to the intense modelling of the facial features, perhaps hinting at Modigliani's acquaintance with the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, which began around the time that Portrait de Joseph Lévi was painted. This was the period when Modigliani forsook Montmartre for Montparnasse, the North for the South, and came into contact with a new circle of artists as well as keen collectors, patrons and enthusiasts such as Paul Alexandre. This encouraged Modigliani both in his revels and in his artistic experimentation, as he began to seek a new means of modelling form both in his pictures and in sculpture. Modigliani's search for a reduced and harmonious manner of rendering the world can already be discerned in the bold brushstrokes, the striped background and the simplification of form in Portrait de Joseph Lévi.

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