Portrait of Maude Abrantes: Amedeo Modigliani

Portrait of Maude Abrantes: Amedeo Modigliani

Portrait of Maude Abrantes is a 1908 painting by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani who was well known for his portraits in the early 20th-century. This work is located in the Hecht Museum in Haifa, Israel.

Analysis of the Portrait of Maude Abrantes

The Portrait of Maude Abrantes is an odd piece of Modigiliani’s. It was painted in 1908 before he had obtained his iconic style of elongated heads and pupilless eyes. And contrast it is. Her face is rather angular with dark eyes. The whole painting is dark and muddy. Modigliani’s early artistic role models were the Italian Renaissance artists.

Even though he rejected this style there was still influence lingering from those days. The model was one of Modigliani’s mistresses. She was married to an art dealer. While pregnant, she left for America. It is a mystery of the nature of her departure, but some think it was related to her unhappy marriage.

Not only an insight into Modigiliani’s artistic journey, but it also has an interesting story around it. The Portrait of Maude Abrantes has a sister painting called Nude with a Hat. It was usual at the time for artists to re-use their canvases because of how expensive art supplies were and artists were usually poor.

One thing that stood out about this canvas was that one side was upside down. Now when these two paintings are shown, it is usually shown where both sides are visible. Yet, one will always be shown upside down. For a long time, there was not much discussion on why this was the case. Recently, the Director and Curator of the Hecht Museum, Ofra Rimon, discovered the reason why. When she was giving a tour, he noticed an eye in the chest area of Nude with a Hat. She stated, “For years I have passed by the painting almost every day and have stood in front of it providing countless explanations. But I never noticed anything irregular about the portrait and have only been frustrated by Modigliani’s disregard for onlookers who are made to view one of the paintings upside down. Then, just out of the blue, when I was escorting guests in the art wing and drew their attention to this fantastic Modigliani piece, the mystery was solved. In my excitement, I shrieked, ‘Here’s the answer! The mystery is solved! There is another portrait beneath Maud’s and this one is facing the other direction to Maud.”

Out of frustration, Modigliani likely turned the painting around to paint a new painting using the clean area. In 2018, an x-ray was done on the painting to see the third portrait more clearly. It has been found two more unfinished portraits underneath. The painting is in possession of the Hecht Museum in Haifa, Israel.

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