Fifty-one

51

A Letto

1878 by Federico Zandomeneghi
Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Palazzo Pitti

Visiting Florence, with its countless churches and palaces, more modern art may seem comparably insignificant, but the fourteenth-century Palazzo Pitti hides Italian impressionism, and it’s worth seeking out. Italian-born Zandomeneghi moved to Paris like most other Impressionists, and, alongside them, turned his attention to the portrayal of women unaware. This pose recalls those of Toulouse-Lautrec (postcard eighteen & forty-three), a woman captured with little care or regard for her onlookers. Zandomeneghi’s composition is wonderfully spread out before us; he makes use of the expanse of the bed (a letto), drawing our attention to it – its bulk takes up most of the painting. Bedclothes are heavy and linen everywhere: draped across pillows, pushed back over the duvet and happily creased, as their owner lies warm among them. This natural carelessness is embodied in the figure’s pose; arm upturned, she turns away from us, eyes closed, blissfully unaware. Her hair spreads above her, elongating the expanse of bed; curling at the tips, it is luxuriously long, and adds a sense of personal intimacy to our view. The effect is one of openness; our eyes are drawn deliberately to the opening, the break, in this vast bed of stark white: flesh and the figure; she is held by the bed, presented to us. The warmth of her skin is picked up by the golden that reflects on the left wall above her; it is the warmth of sun slowing creeping into this sleeping room.

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