Oil portrait of Fanny Elssler as Venus by Natale Schiavoni

GBP 120,000.00

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Object Description

This beautiful portrait by the eighteenth century Italian artist Natale Schiavoni depicts the celebrated ballerina Fanny Elssler (Austrian, 1810-1884) as the reclining goddess Venus, in the model of such masterpieces as Titian’s ‘Venus of Urbino’ c.1534, and Giorgione’s ‘Sleeping Venus’, c.1510. Like those works, the portrait is unapologetically sensual and erotic. The female figure faces the viewer matching our gaze, and she supports herself on her right element while she holds a mirror to admire herself in her left hand, against the flesh of her thigh. The drapery beneath her wraps around her body only just enough to protect the slightest element of her modesty, and her figure, her skin, and the delicate features of her face are all deftly handled by the artist to convey her softness and beauty. The overt sensuality of the work is modified by the inclusion of the charming presence of a dog just above her feet in the shadow, and the red curtain behinds her opens out to show a classical column and a rich red sky in the background.

The subject of the work, Fanny Elssler, was one of the great ballerinas of the 19th century, first appearing in the Paris Opera Ballet in 1834. One of the most talented dancers of the Romantic period, she combined great technical accuracy with performances of great drama and power. Schiavoni was born in 1777 in the Italian town of Chioggia, near Venice. Travelling throughout Italy during his lifetime, he was well-regarded as a skilled painter of portraits and history paintings, and has become particularly known for his erotic portraits of nude female figures, such as this one. He has been exhibited at the British Museum, and other institutions such as the Vienna Museum and the National Gallery of Berlin.

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