Amedeo Modigliani
Woman in a Sailor Shirt (La Femme en blouse marine ), 1916

Bequest of Luisa Toso, 2016

The young woman who is the sitter, with bobbed black hair accentuating her oval face, is unknown. Both the background and her clothing are in dark tones, projecting her warm pink face forwards. The same sitter appears in another portrait by Amedeo Modigliani of the same year, The Seated Servant Girl (La servetta seduta). The shade of the dress suggests winter, especially since the ‘marinière,’ or ‘French Riviera Style,’ which was adopted by the children of upper-class Parisians and Londoners who visited the Côte d’Azure, was characterized by its light colors. The anatomical elongation which, beginning in the second half of the 1910s, characterizes his work, is indicative of his previous experience as a sculptor, and of the influence then of African and Oriental art.

Woman in a Sailor Shirt was exhibited in the artist’s solo show, organized in December 1917 by his dealer Leopold Zbrowski at the Parisian gallery of Berthe Weill. Paintings of female nudes in the window caused a scandal, and the show closed prematurely. In 1917, the painting was bought by Paul Guillaume and shown only rarely after this, at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Bruxelles in 1933 and at Kunsthalle Basel in 1934, before entering the Toso collection in Venice in 1952.

The canvas was examined and treated by the conservator at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. A thick layer of non-original varnish, both oxidized and yellowed, was removed. It had been applied during a prior restoration intervention which however altered the color tones, obscuring the cold, blue and gray tones as well as the peach-colored face which had deteriorated to beige. The colors have returned to the original, subtle diversity, the oxidation and whitening visible on several parts of the canvas have been removed.

This research and conservation project has been supported by EFG, Institutional Patron of the museum.