57.1 x 77.5 cm
This work by Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) is among the first in a series of nine surviving portraits he created of Anna (Hanka) Zborowska between 1916 and 1919.A member of a Polish aristocratic family, Hanka Cirowska married the poet Léopold Zborowski, also from Poland, soon after his arrival in Paris in 1914. Within a couple of years her husband became Modigliani’s art dealer, and the two men developed a close rapport, in both a professional and personal capacity.This was in contrast to Modigliani’s formal relationship with the refined but reserved Hanka, whom he addressed as Madame Zborowska. Although she did not approve of his wildly bohemian lifestyle, she tolerated his behaviour and posed regularly (always fully clothed) as she recognised his genius and also realised that Modigliani’s creative output was crucial to the success of her husband’s career. The canvas was completed in 1917, just three years before the artist’s tragic death, aged 35, in Paris.
Known also as the Lady with a collar, the work has echoes of 14th century Sienese painting, with its elongated face and neck, a sculptural style which Modigliani made all his own.With the exception of her fanned-out high white collar and amber brooch at the base of her swan neck, there is little decoration to distract from Hanka’s detached gaze. In the top right corner, “Anna” is written in loose black capital letters, barely visible against the brown background. The sitter appears aloof, sovereign almost, and her stylised beauty radiates through her smooth, warm skin, like fresh terracotta basking in the sun