Woman with a Pearl
Oil painting on canvas; Size: 70x55cm; Louvre, Paris.
The portrait painting, signed "Corot" at bottom right, is considered one of the best figure studies of the famous artist. The model has been identified, although not with certainty, as Berthe Goldschmidt, who may have posed for the painting between 1868 and 1870: according to one of the first owners of the painting, Jean Dollfus, she was the daughter of a dealer in antique fabrics and was sixteen or seventeen at the time. Notwithstanding the picture's traditional title, the object on the girl's forehead is not a pearl, but a leaf that has detached itself from her headdress. Note the perfect formal balance and framing of the portrait, with the face turned slightly with respect to the bust to look toward us, and the folded arms that close the composition: it is evident that here Corot has chosen to draw on the models of Renaissance portraiture, from Leonardo da Vinci to Raphael. However, the point of reference closest in time is Ingres; even the handling of the paint appears less simplified and sketchy than in his earlier studies and in many pictures from the same period. It almost seems as if in a work of his maturity Corot wanted to return to the classical manner that he had learned in his youth, following, once again, two different paths in the evolution of his style.
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