Madame Rejane and Her Dog was probably painted in the 1880s. During this decade, Boldini met and befriended the American painter John Singer Sargent and even took over his studio at the Boulevard Berthier in 1886. Sargent encouraged Boldini to move away from the "cabinet" pictures that had preoccupied him in the 1870s (see lot 102) and to concentrate more on portraiture.
During this time, Boldini's pictures became freer and more spontaneous in their brushwork. His flamboyant style of portraiture was characterized by the vibrance of their depictions, full of movement and color. The paintings found an eager audience in the fashion-conscious society of Paris, and Boldini received numerous commissions. Madame Rejane was an actress whom Boldini also used as a model in his 1885 picture Profile of a Young Woman (fig. 1); in both pictures, Boldini shows his sitter in profile and uses the bravura brushwork that was to become the trademark of his later society portraits. Madame Rejane and Her Dog clearly foretells such later pictures as Portrait of Josephina Errasuriz Holding a Cat: both works show the sitter clutching her pet tightly against her body in a tender and humanizing gesture that creates a sense of naturalism and spontaneity.
(fig. 1) Giovanni Boldini, Profile of a Young Woman, 1885