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Federico Zandomeneghi (Italian, 1841-1917)
Federico Zandomeneghi (Italian, 1841-1917)

Femme en bleu qui lit

Federico Zandomeneghi (Italian, 1841-1917)
Femme en bleu qui lit
signed 'F. Zandomeneghi' (lower left)
oil on canvas
21½ x 18.1/8 in. (54.6 x 46.2 cm.)
with Paul Durand-Ruel, Paris.
Angelo Sommaruga, Paris.
Emilio Ceretti, Milan.
Private Collection, Milan.
E. Piceni, Zandomeneghi, Milan, 1967, no. 355 (illustrated).
Fondazione Enrico Piceni, Federico Zandomeneghi Catalogo generale, nuova edizione aggiornata e ampliata, Milan, 2006, p. 325, no. 581.

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Lot Essay

The theme of women reading was one of the most prevalent in Zandomeneghi's oeuvre, in part because it was commercially very popular, but also because it chimed with his own sensitivities. Popularly known as Zando, the Italian artist was, like so many of his Impressionist friends and peers, represented by the Paris dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, a rigorous and demanding task-master who commissioned many similar paintings from other artists in his stable (see fig. 1).

Zandomeneghi's work was closest in spirit to that of Edgar Degas and Pierre Renoir. With the former he shared a passion for drawing, and an art historical sense which led to a more reserved strand of Impressionism which did not embrace the more dogmatic elements of colour theory, and concentrated on the human form rather than on landscape. With Renoir he shared an apprecation of the female form, but his sensitivity to the subject -- while far from timid or chaste -- was more intellectual than sensual, and focused on capturing those casual moments of women engaged in personal rituals such as combing their hair, arranging flowers, reading or writing. As Enrico Piceni writes:

'The Venetian artist rediscovered the subtle uncertainties of a loving, contradictory being, and underlined her lazy desires, her quivering love for the most futile things, her hidden, shameless aspirations, just as her modesty serves as her instrument of charm and seduction. Renoir's women triumph on a sunny afternoon. Zando's women rest in their boudoir feeling melancholy yet pertly provocative, or they might be found concealing their curiosities behind the veils of their hats...He offered a warm and affectionate sentimental approach to the theme [of women], surpassing the exceptional but cruel and lucid narration of Degas. He also transferred Renoir's ideal deification of woman, the latter's return to Rubens, into a bourgeois reality full of truth but capable of converting an anecdote into poetry.' (E. Piceni, op.cit., 2006, pp. 64-65).

Stylistically, Zando ploughed a very individual furrow, defined most strongly by his luminous palette, made up of trademark colours such as light blues, opalescent greens and vibrant pinks. In the present work, a woman is shown serenely reading a book, her posture one of quiet repose. The scene is enlivened by the patchwork colours of the carpet but, most particularly, by the vivid contrast between her bright blue dress and the small, red book, which provides as strong a focus for the viewer looking in, as it does for the sitter who is reading it. More than anything, it is perhaps this contrast between his intimate, sometimes melancholic subject matter, and the chromatic nature of his colours, which gives Zandomeneghi's work their own particular intensity.

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