Throughout his life Corot painted images of women dressed in particular costume, often folk dress. They cannot be described as portraits, and the sitters are often unknown. In this example, the woman wears a white dress of perhaps muslin or organza decorated with pink satin ribbons. In her left hand she holds a rose. A string of what appear to be pearls is entwined in her mass of dark hair. She is framed by an oval of dark paint, the inner rim outlined in dull yellow, perhaps imitating the gold of a frame. Her face is richly modelled in dark shades of brown, her deep-set eyes almost lost in shadow.
The small scale of this picture combined with the depiction of the frame might suggest that Corot was not painting from a real model, but was copying an existing painting or even a photograph.
Throughout his life Corot painted images of women clothed in particular costume, often folk dress. He delighted both in portraying their individual features and juxtaposing the colours and textures of different fabrics. These pictures cannot be described as portraits, and the sitters are often unknown. In this example, the woman wears a white dress of perhaps muslin or organza. Its decoration of pink satin ribbons is conveyed with random streaks of pale pink paint. In her left hand she holds a rose. Entwined in her mass of dark hair is a string of what may be pearls. Touches of reds, yellows and greens indicating flowers and leaves are also visible in her hair.
The woman is framed by an oval bordered with dark paint, the upper half outlined in dull yellow paint, perhaps imitating the gold of a frame. Her face is richly modelled in dark shades of brown, and its handling of light and shade has been likened to the work of Rembrandt. Her deep-set eyes, almost lost in shadow, can be compared to those of the woman in Corot’s Italian Woman, or Woman with Yellow Sleeve (L'Italienne), yet she does not have the commanding presence which the model in that painting shares with his other depictions of women. Instead the woman here is an enigmatic figure, rather shrunk in on herself, her appearance leading one nineteenth-century French critic, Armand Dagot, to comment on her ‘nightmarish qualities…a fantastic apparition of which the memory pursues and haunts you’. Her unusual presence and the small scale of the picture, combined with the depiction of the frame, might suggest that in this case Corot was not painting from a real model, but was copying an existing painting or even a photograph.
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