Giovanni Boldini, the painter of the Belle Époque, arrives at St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum

(Photo credit: Maria Michela D'Alessandro)

Through 11 March, the General Staff Building hosts Giovanni Boldini’s famous works to acquaint Russian audiences with the Italian painter of the Belle Époque

St Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum, in conjunction with Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism, have brought the first dedicated exhibition of the Italian portraitist Giovanni Boldini to Russian audiences. The exhibition titled Giovanni Boldini. Painter of the Belle Époque will run through March 11 in the halls of the top floor of the Hermitage’s General Staff Building (together with Degas, Manet and Monet), arriving after having been shown at the Beijing World Art Museum last summer.

Boldini captured the aristocratic and bohemian worlds of fin de siècle Paris, a city in which he lived and died, painting portraits of the intellectuals, dandies, aristocrats, and femme fatales of the brilliant age.

The exhibition features 54 works, 37 of them from the Giovanni Boldini Museum in Ferrara, the largest public collection of the painter’s legacy (currently under renovation), and the others from seven Italian museums, including the Florentine Uffizi Galleries, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, and museums in Parma, Barletta, Pavia, and Treviso.

Boldini was a cosmopolite, as were the women who he painted on canvas and who made him famous. His favorite subject was the “dynamic woman, at times nervous, active, and dominating in her beauty,” sais Maria Luisa Pacelli, Director of the Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art of Ferrara.

‘Alaide Banti in a Grey Dress,’ ‘The Lascaraky Sisters,’ ‘Portrait of Infanta Eulalia of Spain,’ ‘Woman in White,’ and ‘Lady in Pink (Portrait of Olivia de Subercaseaux Concha)’ are just some of the characters he painted between at the turn of the century, which will still seduce the viewer through Boldini’s conception of beauty, elegance and sensuality.

The Italian art historian Pacelli, together with Barbara Guidi, Chief Curator of the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Ferrara, devised the concept of the exhibition—curated by Natalia Demina—to give a broad perspective on the artist.

The exhibition presents Boldini’s experiments with plein air, compositions on subjects from Parisian life, the artist’s still lifes, depictions of his own home, a section dedicated to artistic prints, as well as his self-portrait and one of the first commissioned portraits of Lilia Monti in the 19th century.

Boldini’s fascination with French painters, especially Degas and Manet, is evident in his Parisian period, throughout 60 years of his artistic career.

“Boldini was not a complex artist and his painting is in between the Avant-garde and figurative art, something that Russian visitors know well,” said Maria Luisa Pacelli, in expectation of considerable feedback from the Russian audience. The Belle Époque art of the exhibition should be more familiar to Russian visitors than for viewers in Beijing, where such artwork is less common. The show also includes works by artists in Boldini’s circle, including Giuseppe De Nittis, Cristiano Banti, and Torello Ancillotti—just to name a few. Complementing the Italian art is a section dedicated to advertising posters from the early 20th century.

Event: Exhibition Giovanni Boldini. Painter of the Belle Époque
When: Through 11 March
Where: General Staff building, State Hermitage Museum. 6/8 Dvortsovaya Square, St Petersburg, 191186
Price: From 400 to 600 roubles (free for Russian students and pensioners)
Language: –

More from Maria Michela D'Alessandro

Tail-end winter hacks: 5 things you can do to survive winter in St Petersburg

Winter in St Petersburg can be such a beautiful experience, but it...
Read More