Originally from Norway, Nanne Schrader married the German-born businessman Thaddeus Schrader, who settled with his wife in London and developed extensive business interests in South Africa. The couple were prominent members of London society, and Nanne was known in particular as an accomplished musician and patron of the arts, hosting and playing in concerts with her sisters, and sponsoring operatic events throughout Europe.
Boldini was at the height of his artistic powers and international fame in the first decade of 20th century; he vied with artists such as John Singer Sargent and Anders Zorn as the portrait painter of choice for both European and North American high society, developing an image of the modern cosmopolitan woman who was sensual, but independent and confident.
The art-critic Bernard Berenson famously described Boldini as the quintessential painter of the Belle-Epoque, an artist who painted “women of high society, who in his canvases, seem painted under a translucent glass.” This characteristic was achieved by certain trademark techniques, which are fully displayed in the present work; these centred on a bravura ability to modulate his colours, in particular deep blacks and pearlescent whites, in such a way as to given them an extraordinary sheen and vibrancy, which brought his sitters vividly to life.
The above qualities are all plainly evident in this portrait of Nanne Schrader, who looks smilingly at the viewer, resting nonchalantly against an ermine cape, and radiating the forthright expression of a woman who is approachable, successful and self-assured. The contrast between the bold, fluid brushwork of the lower half of the composition, and the plain background against which Boldini has set the sitter’s smiling, settled features, communicates both the vivaciousness and warmth of her character, while the subtle stress on certain motifs, such as the ring, brooch and necklace, which are described in a rich impasto, reinforces her social status. These elements combine to create a modern reinterpretation of Ingres’ famous masterpiece, Madame Moitessier, created 50 years earlier, communicating the same sense of sympathy and material ease, but one attuned to the dash and swagger of the Belle Epoque.