The Italian Woman is a 1917 painting by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani who was well known for his portraits in the early 20th century. This work is located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, New York.
Analysis of Modigliani’s The Italian Woman
The Italian Woman by Amedeo Modigliani is a peculiar figure in the artist’s collection of portraits.
The interest in this unnamed and unknown woman seems to have consisted, for Modigliani, of the simple fact that she is an Italian and therefore a compatriot. Her portrait likely came about in the turbulent war year of 1918, when Modigliani and his lover Jeanne Hébuterne sought the safety of Nice and were removed from Paris.
She is sitting with her back to an orange panel which reveals, only on the right, to be covering a verdigris wall. Background walls of this and similar colors are recurrent in Modigliani’s paintings and often, as in this case, vivify somewhat the sprawling orange of the panel.
The orange itself then creates a significant contrast with the pitch black of the Italian Woman’s robe. The strength of this chromatic opposition makes the Italian Woman conspicuous, even when seen from some distance.
It might be noted that Modigliani relied on a powder-like emulsion of orange and white to contour the Woman’s head. Its function is that of preventing her slightly orange face from sinking into the surrounding orange background.
This effect is not replicated along her bust except in short traits, and not at all along her legs. But it may be noted that streaks of orange within the lower half of her robe contribute to establishing its form (and possibly light reflections) in opposition to the two background colors.