Giovanni Boldini moved from London to Paris in 1871. It was in the Ville Lumière that the artist reached the peak of his creativity and success, becoming one of the leading figures of the artistic community. Boldini gravitated around artists such as Edgar Degas, Paul-César Helleu, John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler. His first entry to the Paris Salon was in 1874 and thereafter he was a frequent contributor, even acting as chairman of the Italian section of the 1889 Exposition Universelle. He was made a member of the Société Nationale des Artistes Français in 1879 and was awarded a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur ten years later. He ultimately rented Sargent's house and studio at 41 Boulevard Berthier where he spent the rest of his life (fig. 1).
Painted at the height of Boldini’s fame, the present work can be dated circa 1887. It was in the 1880’s that the artist started to experiment with a dynamism which characterises his later works. The monochrome palette, which describes the symbolist title given to the present composition, increases the candour of the model’s body. Boldini applies the paint with energetic flourishes, never losing sight of the model's body, which is subtly defined by the tonal gradations of whites and pinks that build up volume in the figure. The ethereal figure of the model seems to emerge from her surroundings in a great dynamism of quick brushstrokes, which seem to anticipate the freedom and modernity of the artist’s style at the turn of the century.
Elegant ladies had always figured prominently in Boldini’s oeuvre: the artist was particularly sensitive to the portrayal of the female form. Depicting the nude female body was a constant source of inspiration for the artist. His sitters were noted for their relaxed and often pensive poses as if they were unaware of the presence of the artist. The theme was certainly developed thanks to a series of works the artist depicted his lover, the beautiful Gabrielle de Rasty.
The present work was originally on the verso of the painting Ballerina in Mauve dated circa 1885 (fig. 2; P. Dini and F. Dini, no. 381 and in Cardona's manuscript under no. 9B Bis). The two works were possibly separated by the artist's wife, Emilia Cardona, following the inventory carried out in the artist's atelier at his death in 1931.