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

La Juive

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
La Juive
signed 'modigliani' (upper left)
oil on canvas
21 5/8 x 18 1/8 in. (54.9 x 46 cm.)
Painted circa 1907-1908
Dr. Paul Alexandre, Paris (acquired from the artist, by February 1913 and at least until 1951).
Galerie Schmit, Paris (by 1977).
Acquired by the present owners, circa 1989.
A. Pfannstiel, L'Art et la vie: Modigliani, Paris, 1929, p. 1 (illustrated, p. 6).
R. Franchi, Modigliani, Florence, 1946, p. 43 (illustrated, pl. 1; titled Donna ebrea).
J.T. Soby, Modigliani, New York, 1954, p. 13.
A. Pfannstiel, Modigliani et son oeuvre: étude critique et catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1956, p. 57, no. 2.
A. Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani, peintre, Milan, 1958, p. 41, no. 7 (illustrated in color).
C. Roy, Modigliani, Geneva, 1958, p. 131 (illustrated in color, p. 22).
A. Werner, Amedeo Modigliani, New York, 1966, p. 68 (illustrated in color, p. 69).
P. Sichel, Modigliani: A Biography of Amedeo Modigliani, London, 1967, pp. 146-147.
A. Ceroni and L. Piccioni, I dipinti di Modigliani, Milan, 1970, p. 88, no. 9 (illustrated; illustrated again in color, pl. I; titled L'ebrea).
J. Lanthemann, Modigliani: Catalogue raisonné, Sa vie, son oeuvre complet, son art, Barcelona, 1970, p. 108, no. 20 (illustrated, p. 165).
G. Diehl, Modigliani, Naefels, 1977, pp. 16 and 19 (illustrated in color, p. 9).
C. Mann, Modigliani, London, 1980, pp. 45, 48, 51 and 210, no. 22 (illustrated, p. 47).
C. Parisot, intro., Jeanne Modigliani Racconta Modigliani, Livorno, 1984, p. 62 (illustrated, p. 61).
C. Roy, Modigliani, New York, 1985, p. 154 (illustrated in color, p. 17).
T. Castieau-Barrielle, La vie et l'oeuvre de Amedeo Modigliani, Paris, 1987, p. 30 (illustrated in color, p. 31; dated 1907).
C. Parisot, Modigliani: Catalogue raisonné, peintures, dessins, aquarelles, Livorno, 1991, vol. II, p. 262, no. 1/1908 (illustrated in color, p. 25).
O. Patani, Amedeo Modigliani: Catalogo generale, dipinti, Milan, 1991, p. 46, no. 11 (illustrated in color).
N. Alexandre, The Unknown Modigliani: Drawings from the Collection of Paul Alexandre, New York, 1993, pp. 44, 54, and 65 (illustrated in color, p. 44; illustrated again in situ, p. 45; dated 1907).
D. Krystof, Amedeo Modigliani: The Poetry of Seeing, Cologne, 2006, p. 10 (illustrated in color).
J. Meyers, Modigliani: A Life, Orlando, 2006, pp. 47-48.
R. Chiappini, Modigliani, exh. cat., Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome, 2006, pp. 26-27 (illustrated in color, p. 27, fig. 7; titled L'ebrea).
M. Secrest, Modigliani: A Life, New York, 2011, pp. 123-124.
Paris, Salon des Artistes Indépendants, March-May 1908, no. 4325 (titled Portrait).
Paris, Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées, Trente ans d'Art Indépendant, 1884-1914, February-March 1926, p. 197, no. 3096.
Cleveland Museum of Art and New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Modigliani: Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, January-June 1951, p. 51 (illustrated, p. 17).
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Cent tableaux de Modigliani, 1958, no. 3 (illustrated).
Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and Zurich, Kunsthaus, Amedeo Modigliani: Malerei, Skulpturen, Zeichnungen, January-July 1991, p. 222, no. 13 (illustrated in color).
Tokyo, Tobu Museum of Art; Kyoto, Daimaru Museum; Osaka, Daimaru Museum of Umeda and Ibaraki, Museum of Modern Art; Exposition Amedeo Modigliani au Japon, 1992-93, November 1992-March 1993, p. 56, no. 2 (illustrated in color, p. 57).
New York, The Jewish Museum; Art Gallery of Ontario and Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, Modigliani: Beyond the Myth, May 2004-May 2005, pp. 47-48 and 192 (illustrated in color, p. 89, pl. 2).

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

Modigliani painted La Juive very likely in late 1907 and placed it in the 1908 Salon des Indépendants, which opened that year on 30 March. This painting is among the earliest works that Ambrogio Ceroni recorded in his Modigliani catalogue, as no. 7, dating it circa 1908 (op. cit., 1958). There are certainly unknowable gaps in this artist's earliest production, paintings he abandoned or even destroyed, and because he was so utterly obscure at that time, there are some which passed from his hands to unidentified others, perhaps as payment for a favor, only to be cast aside, forgotten and irretrievably lost. La Juive is, however, a most fortunate survivor of this period, and an especially distinctive one for the reason that Modigliani here displayed for the first time the broad spectrum of stylistic inflexions that mark his entry into the modernist milieu of Parisian art, then at a crucial juncture between the passing wave of Fauvism and the emergence of Cubism. La Juive is moreover a storied work, involving an intriguing cast of characters, including Paul Alexandre, a young doctor who became the artist's close friend and first advocate during the early years in Paris, and the painter's sitter, Maud Abrantès, a mysterious American woman who was in all likelihood a lover--of one, the other or perhaps even both men. In these ways La Juive amazingly anticipates both the painter and the man Modigliani would famously become, the peintre maudit whose life, work, loves and untimely death would ultimately be transfigured into the stuff of romance, myth and legend, to a degree unique among the great artists of the 20th century.

Having long held the dream that only in Paris might he fulfill his self-appointed destiny as an artist, Modigliani arrived in the French capital from his native Livorno in January 1906. He stayed at first in a hotel near the Madeleine, playing the casual sight-seer and enrolling in the Académie Colarossi, where Whistler and Gauguin once studied. His funds soon ran out, and he desperately needed to make a living from his art. Modigliani moved from Montparnasse to a squalid studio at 7, Place Jean-Baptiste Clément in Montmartre, in a rough neighborhood where many people subsisted from hand to mouth--aspiring poets, artists, simple working people and those who made their livelihood in crime--all existing side by side. Modigliani was a frequent visitor to the nearby Bateau-Lavoir where Picasso, Gris, and their band of typically impoverished fellow Spaniards held ramshackle court, together with Van Dongen, Herbin, the poet-painter Max Jacob and a few writers. Derain lived nearby. While frequenting Frédéric Gérard's fabled tavern, the "Lapin Agile," Modigliani met Utrillo, and became friendly with the German painter Ludwig Meidner, who sat for a portrait (now lost) which Modigliani showed at the 1907 Salon d'Automne. Meidner published an article containing his reminiscences of Modigliani in 1943. The Italian painter was always "lively and enthusiastic, always sparkling, full of imagination, wit and contradictory moods," Meidner wrote. "I was overwhelmed by his open attitude towards everything, in particular whenever he spoke about beauty. Never before had I heard an artist speak with such ardor" ("The Young Modigliani: Some Memories" in Burlington Magazine, vol. 82, no. 481, April 1943, p. 87).

Meidner occasionally joined his friend for exhibition-going, and could tell us which painters interested Modigliani at that time. "Among more recent artists Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin fascinated him above all," Meidner wrote. "Of the latter we had just seen the wonderful retrospective exhibition in the Salon d'Automne (1906) which intoxicated us with excitement. But Modi was also interested in Whistler and his delicate tones, although this master's fame was at that time somewhat declining. He further admired Ensor and Munch, who were almost unknown in Paris, and among the young artists we favoured Picasso, Matisse, Rouault and some young Hungarian expressionists who were just coming into fashion" (ibid.). Toulouse-Lautrec and Whistler were in fact the chief influences on Modigliani's work in his earliest Parisian phase, paintings which in Meidner's assessment "had style...they were moderate and cultured in colour as well as design" (ibid., p. 88).

These qualities are particularly apparent in a strongly characterful portrait done in 1907 (Ceroni, 1970, no. 5; fig. 1), which features an early appearance by Maud Abrantès in Modigliani's pictures. Little is known about this woman, except that she was a young American from New York, married, and apparently well off; she was a free spirit who loved Paris and especially liked to indulge in la vie bohème. It is not known how Modigliani came to know Maud; the fact that she was Jewish, like Modigliani, may have helped them to connect. She is the subject in six of the first ten paintings recorded in Ceroni's catalogue--nos. 4 (sold Christie's London, 26 June 2001, lot 231), 5 (fig. 1), 6, 7a and b (fig. 2--recto and verso), and the present painting, no. 9. There are also some watercolors: Ceroni (1965), nos. 2 and 3; Patani (1994), no. 8; Alexandre (1993), no. 10; and a drawing: Alexandre, no. 61.

Dr. Paul Alexandre in 1907 had recently begun practicing medicine; although his specialty was dermatology, he treated whatever ailments came his way at the Hôpital Lariboisière and a clinic he opened at 62, rue Pigalle, in a poor working class section of Montmartre. He was a passionate devotee of the arts and a collector in various fields. He rented on the cheap from the municipal government a roomy, high-ceilinged but dilapidated building at 7, rue du Delta that had been slated for demolition. He turned it into an artist's colony, giving accommodations to artist-friends who were too hard up to afford decent studio space. One of his house-mates, the sculptor Henri Doucet, knew Modigliani from the "Lapin Agile." Dr. Alexandre, who was three years older than Modigliani, recalled the events that led to his first meeting with the artist:

"It was Doucet who first brought [Modigliani] to the Delta. I think it was in November or December 1907... Modigliani told Doucet that he had been thrown out of the small studio he had occupied in place Jean-Baptiste Clément and that he did not know where to go... He was earning nothing, he had exhausted his few resources he had brought from Italy and found himself penniless. Doucet offered to bring him to the Delta where he could stay, if he wanted, and where he could keep his belongings... Modigliani arrived accompanied by a supremely elegant woman, Maud Abrantès, and followed by a car which contained, among other things, The Jewess, his sketchbooks, his books and a few old clothes. He soon became the dominant personality in the group and immediate sympathy bound him to several of the others... For the first time in his life he sold some canvases and gave away a few drawings. He chose to take lodgings in a hotel in the rue Caulaincourt, behind the 'Maquis,' but he came back every day to see me at the Delta as did Maud Abrantès, who enjoyed herself enormously there" (quoted in N. Alexandre, op. cit., pp. 53-54).

Modigliani probably painted La Juive in late 1907, discoursing on stylistic elements he had observed at the Salon d'Automne, and certainly by the time he brought it--together with Maud, his sitter--to the Delta. Among the paintings Modigliani sold soon after this occasion was La Juive, which was bought by Dr. Alexandre, for whom it apparently became a prized possession (fig. 3). When Modigliani painted a study and then two versions of Dr. Alexandre's portrait (Ceroni, 1970, nos. 13, 14 [fig. 4] and 15), La Juive appears in the background of each picture, seen over the doctor's shoulder. He also owned the two-sided painting of Maud done in 1908 (fig. 2). Although we know from Dr. Alexandre's reminiscences that Maud was a frequent visitor to the Delta, she otherwise fades from view, and did not appear in another known Modigliani painting. Dr. Alexandre mentioned that a year later she was pregnant and returned to America. He received a post card from her written aboard the steamship "La Lorraine" dated 28 November 1908, one day before her arrival in New York, in which she mused, "Are you still reading Mallarmé? I couldn't tell you how much I miss all those charming evenings we all spent together around your warm fire. Oh, what a wonderful time! Fondest memories from Maud Abrantès" (quoted in ibid., p. 57). Jeffrey Meyers has suggested that "Modi may have been the father of the child" (op. cit., p. 47). Or perhaps Dr. Alexandre could have claimed paternity, and Maud's decision to return to America may have been her way of dealing with the complications of a hopelessly convoluted love triangle. Once she was back in New York, neither man heard from her ever again.

One may detect a host of cross-currents in La Juive that carry this picture well beyond the stage to which the influence of Lautrec and Whistler had initially taken Modigliani during 1906 and early 1907. There is the suggestion generally of Van Dongen in the bohemian subject, some touches of Matissean fauvism are seen in the green patches of paint shading her face, and one senses the presence of Cézanne in the subtle tonalities of blue on green--keeping in mind that Modigliani would have seen the posthumous Cézanne memorial retrospective at the 1907 Salon d'Automne, where he had shown his portrait of Meidner. The deliberate thinning of Maud's features (elsewhere she appears to possess a broader visage, with more pronounced cheekbones), together with the prevailing aspect of blue melancholy, betoken Modigliani's interest in Picasso's Blue Period figures.

This eclecticism notwithstanding, La Juive contains more of the artist that Modigliani would eventually become than any work he had done previously, and perhaps some time thereafter as well. In contrast to his earlier portrayals of Maud, and in a significant advance beyond them, Modigliani sought in La Juive to use elements of contemporary style to project the interior world of his sitter's emotional being, while situating her within the social context of her time. "The Jewess is all artifice," Tamar Garb has written, "embodying the figure of the 'painted woman' as modern social type while it allegorizes the artifice of painting itself" (exh. cat., op. cit., 2004, pp. 47-48). Having taken this important step into the art of his time, Modigliani had primed himself to apply his talent and skills toward finding and becoming the master of a singular signature style, which would make him the most distinctive and famous portraitist of the century.

Modigliani shortly after his arrival in Paris, early 1906. Photograph courtesy Archives of American Art. BARCODE: 28855026

Paul Alexandre's younger brother Jean. BARCODE: 28855019

(fig. 1) Amedeo Modigliani, Femme à l'écharpe bleue, 1907. Formerly in the Collection of Helena Rubinstein, New York. Sold, Christie's, New York, 16 November 1983, lot 334. BARCODE: 28855071

(fig. 2) Amedeo Modigliani, Nu au chapeau (recto); Portrait de Maud Abrantès (verso), 1908. Hecht Museum, University of Haifa. BARCODE: 28855064 (RECTO) AND 28855057 (VERSO)

(fig. 3) A soirée at the Delta, February 1913. Left to right: Maurice Drouard, Henri Doucet with his wife, a tailor's dummy, Dr. Paul Alexandre, and Raymonde, Drouard's mistress. La Juive appears on the wall behind them. Photograph in the Alexandre Family collection. BARCODE: 28855040

(fig. 4) Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait de Paul Alexandre, 1909. Private collection. BARCODE: 28855033

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