Giovanni Boldini's Florence, Mrs. (later Lady) Lionel Phillips
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Florence, Mrs. (later Lady) Lionel Phillips
Giovanni Boldini -- Italian-French portrait painter
Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane
Oil on Canvas
193 x 155 cm.

From: National Gallery of Australia
The Edwardians: Secrets and Desires

The sitter was born in 1863, daughter of a South African land surveyor. At age 22 she met and married Lionel Phillips, a wealthy diamond miner who had been in South Africa since 1875. The Phillips moved to England in 1898, remaining there until 1906. Their London home was in Grosvenor Square, and they maintained a country house in Hampshire. While the couple lived in London, Florence acquired a keen interest in art and bought numerous works by artists of the time, including Orpen, Rothenstein, Sickert, Philip Wilson Steer, Pissarro, Monet and Sisley. (Their daughter, Edith, married another contemporary artist – William Nicholson – in 1919.) She gave many of these works to Johannesburg Art Gallery, which she actively helped to establish.

Boldini’s works typically convey a sense of motion of some type, and this portrait is no exception. Lady Phillips sits on the edge of a sofa, which creates “a suggestion of suspended animation.” In deference to the origin of her husband’s fortune, Florence wears a several diamond rings.

Boldini also painted her husband, wearing a glossy coat and trousers and highly polished patent leather shoes. When the portrait of Lionel Phillips was exhibited at the Society of Portrait Painters, London, 1903, the art critic from The Observer commented: “‘He is positively the most wide awake, restlessly alert human being that we ever saw on canvas, and there is a diabolical cleverness about the Franco-Italian’s method which fascinates the spectator whether he likes it or not.’”

Special thanks to Matt Davies, of Kansas City, a friend of the JSS Gallery, for sending me a link to the information. 

By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2004 all rights reserved
Created 6/06/2004