GIOVANNI BOLDINI. Portrait of James McNeill Whistler.
1897. Oil on canvas. 67 x 37 in. Brooklyn Museum.
With this work, the popular society portraitist Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931) faced the challenge of painting one of his most esteemed peers and friends, the American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903). For this homage, Boldini combines the dark palette of Whistler’s own paintings from the early 1870's onward with an animated brushwork that conveys the sitter’s vibrant personality. While holding his top hat in a cursorily painted left hand, Whistler lifts his monocle to his right eye with a delicate flourish—a gesture that underscores the keen eye of an artist momentarily turned subject.