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(Attributed to) Giovanni Boldini

(Italian, 1842-1931)

Blowing bubbles

1878
oil on panel
28.5 x 40.6 cm (11¼ x 16 in.)
signed and dated 'Boldini 78' (lower left)

Cary Grant, Los Angeles
Edmondo Sacerdoti, Milan

T. Panconi, Giovanni Boldini, l'opera completa, vol. III, p.645 (illustrated, titled Interno con Figure (Le Bolle di Sapone))

New York, The New York Cultural Center, Nineteenth Century Paintings in American Collections,1972 (titled Interior Genre Scene, attributed to Giovanni Boldini)
Milan, Galleria Sacerdoti, Invitoalla pittura dell'800 italiano, 1975

Although the attribution of this work to Boldini cannot presently be confirmed, Blowing Bubbles is clearly the work of a very talented artist. It is similar in conception to the small paintings commissioned of Boldini by Adolphe Goupil during the 1870s. These paintings were created especially to meet the demand of the rising middle class. Many artists, especially in France and Italy such as Soulacroix and Reggianini, were producing similar works on various scales at this time. These paintings were small, jewel-like compositions which celebrated the perception that life was more civilized during the 18th Century, before the intrusion of the Industrial Revolution. These pictures are populated by members of the upper classes, dressed in sumptuous fabrics, residing in elegant interiors and engaging in whimsical pastimes – the perfect decoration.

Influenced by the work of the master of the small-scale painting, Meissonier, these pictures were intended to convey a sense of monumentality, with their many figures, richly-decorated interiors and a myriad of textures. Blowing Bubbles is a particularly fine example of this genre. The characterisation of the figures is expertly done, and the exuberance of the younger members of the soirée is expertly captured. The brushwork is fine without being deliberate and the handling of the paint echoes the whimsical nature of the subject matter. Despite the virtuoso handling of the silks and satins, the real focus of the painting is the bubbles themselves. The bubbles represent the fleeting nature of youth and the artist has achieved a realistic rendition of the most ephemeral of creations, and his ability to convey the transparency and translucence of the bubble is an extraordinary feat of painting.

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