Amedeo Modigliani - Living the Avant-Garde: The Triton Collection Foundation, Evening Sale Part I New York Tuesday, November 14, 2023 | Phillips
  • “To do any work, I must have a living person, I must be able to see him opposite me.”
    —Amedeo Modigliani
    With its near-sculptural use of paint, in brushstrokes built up in varying tones to give dimension to the face and head of the sitter, Tête de jeune fille (Louise) is a portrait of remarkable immediacy and intensity. Painted in 1915 during a pivotal moment in Amedeo Modigliani’s career, where the artist returned with force to painting after a period dedicated to his sculptural practice, Tête de jeune fille (Louise) draws on a range of stylistic influences, synthesized through the artist’s distinctive pictorial idiom and refined into what he would term “Le grand style.


    Rendered in warm, terracotta tones with flushes of pink, and darker notes vibrantly accented by bold brushstrokes in blue and green, Tête de jeune fille (Louise) demonstrates the sophistication of Modigliani’s handling of paint. In keeping with Modigliani’s stylistic development during these crucial months, we can see all of the characteristics of his early style—the “importance of black in structuring the picture; mid-length, frontal figures against an indeterminate, deliberately rough background; the absence of details and the beginnings of distortion”—pushed in sophisticated new directions.i With her elongated neck, elegantly sloping shoulders, and distinctive almond eyes, Tête de jeune fille (Louise) demonstrates the significant developments made in this important year towards realizing the artist’s signature style, notably in the more stylized treatment of her features and darker construction of the eyes that would be such a prominent feature of his portraits in the following years. 


    Amedeo Modigliani, Little Louise, 1915. Private Collection. Image: © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images

    Although little is known about the sitter, Modigliani returned to her several times between 1914 and 1917, first in a sensitively rendered watercolor, in which she appears with the same dark headscarf that accentuates the smooth curve of her forehead and rounded face. The present work is most closely related to a slightly larger portrait, Little Louise, 1915, showing the model in the same pose, but presented in a three-quarter seated view. In focusing more directly on the face and head of the titular Louise with disarming directness in Tête de jeune fille (Louise), Modigliani generates a profound psychological charge, adding a note of sensuality in the delicate rendering of her gently parted lips and blushed cheeks. 


    Just as in his earliest years in Paris, when the artist was based in Montmartre and painted his friends and neighbors gravitating around the rue du Delta, he resumed this practice when he returned to painting in 1915. Modigliani created portraits of the cosmopolitan collection of writers, dealers, and artists gathered around the bars and studios of Montparnasse including the likes of Chaïm Soutine, Juan Gris, and Moïse Kisling. As in Tête de jeune fille (Louise), the more closely cropped format of these bust portraits, and the sense of tender familiarity between artist and model that they document, work together to “underscore the intimacy and immediacy with which the artist approached his subject.”ii


    A Sculptor’s Vision


    Modigliani’s move to Montparnasse had been prompted by the close working relationship that he had developed with the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, and it is easy to imagine the enthusiasm with which a young man who had spent his childhood in provincial Italy would approach this vibrant new city and blend of intellectual and artistic ideas. In the artist’s own words, in these years he was at the epicenter of “this great intellectual crossroads, where the sons of all races mingle, united in a common artistic ideal, where the art of tomorrow is developed, where the fusion of all the peoples of Europe and the world is perhaps being prepared”—vividly captured in his portraits from this height of his career.iii


    [Left] Portrait Mask (Gba gba), Baule, Ivory Coast, before 1913. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY 
    [Right] Constantin Brancusi, Mademoiselle Pognany [I], 1912. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Image: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, PA, USA / Gift of Mrs. Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee, 1933 / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Although known primarily as a painter, Modigliani’s sculptural practice, developed in the early 1910s, would profoundly shape his painterly language, with the “attenuated forms and stylized features of the stone pieces, and the flat, linear style of the drawings […] resurfacing in his later paintings.”iv Friend and fellow painter Nina Hamnett would emphasize the primary importance of sculpture in Modigliani’s practice, and although he also worked in wood, his carved limestone heads first presented at the 1912 Salon d’Automne are a stunning articulation of the artist’s fundamental preoccupation with questions of line and form. Recalling the technical finesse and expressive power of his mentor Brancusi’s rounded and radically simplified forms, Modigliani rejected a tradition exemplified in the modern age by the expressive turbulence of Auguste Rodin’s sculpted surfaces. Modigliani turned increasingly to non-Western modes of representation in the exquisite refinement and purification of his forms.


    As with other avant-garde artists of the period, Modigliani’s access to the so-called “primitive’” wooden masks imported, exhibited, and circulated by his friend and dealer Paul Guillaume would prove vital in these years. The immediacy and expressiveness of these carved facial forms was uniquely synthesized in Modigliani’s work with the elongated distortions characteristic of the 16th century Italian Mannerist painting that would have been so familiar to him. Modigliani first met Guillaume at the close of 1914, the same period that Carl Einstein’s hugely influential primitivist study Negerplastik was published, celebrating the “state of motionless ecstasy” achieved in these objects through an “elaboration of a purified structure.”v


    Parmigianino, Madonna with the long neck, 1535-1540. Galleria Uffizi, Florence. Image: Bridgeman Images

    Representing one of the most important professional relationships in Modigliani’s short life, Guillaume was hugely active in promoting the artist’s work both in Paris and internationally, sending examples of his sculpture to New York in 1916 to an important group exhibition at the Modern Gallery. It was Guillaume who was instrumental in Modigliani’s return to painting in these years, and his proximity to both the intellectual Guillaume and his impressive collection of African art would motivate the formal and stylistic innovations pioneered by the artist from this point on. In the well-known series of drawn and painted portraits of Guillaume created by Modigliani between 1914 and 1916, Modigliani celebrated his sitter’s unique role in shaping and guiding this next chapter of avant-garde experiment. In the masterful Paul Guillaume, Nova Pilota, 1915, Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, the extent to which the artist had successfully transposed the plastic effects of the mask from sculpture into painting is evident; the dealer’s likeness is rendered through a carefully observed stylization and schematization focused on pure line and volume. 


    Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Guillaume, Nova Pilota, 1915. Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris. Image: © Photo Josse / Bridgeman Images

    Intensified though the close focus on the head of the sitter here and the rhythmic background of animated broken brushwork that she is set against, Tête de jeune fille (Louise) evidences the same sculptural approach taken by the painter in these years, his “gradated use of black paint” immediately effective in bringing out the more lively, luminous quality of her Establishing the geometric simplification, elongated forms, and stylized facial features that would come to define the artist’s work, in Tête de jeune fille (Louise) Modigliani strikes a perfect balance between the expressive and reduced volumes of African sculpture with the specificity of his sitter, charging this portrait with a remarkable and disarming poignancy.  


    We would like to thank The Modigliani Initiative for their contributions to the bibliography of this work.



    i  Sophie Krebs, “Modigliani & Paris,” in Modigliani, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2017, p. 21. 

    ii  Anette Kruszynski, Amedeo Modigliani: Portraits and Nudes, London, 2000, p. 36. 

    iii  Amedeo Modigliani, quoted in Krebs, p. 23. 

    iv Simonetta Fraquelli, “A Personal Universe: Modigliani’s Portraits and Figure Paintings,” in Modigliani and his Models, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2006, p. 33.  

    v Carl Einstein, quoted in Marc Restellini, ed., Modigliani: The Primitivist Revolution, exh. cat., The Albertina Museum, Vienna, 2021, p. 171. 

    vi  Kruyszynski, p. 42. 

    • Description

      Please see main sale page for guarantee notice

    • Provenance

      Georges Chéron, Paris
      Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired on October 5, 1921)
      Dr. Noréro (acquired from the above on February 9, 1922)
      Antonio Mazzotta, Milan (acquired by 1958)
      Farsettiarte, Prato, November 29, 1997, lot 382
      Private Collection
      Galerie Cazeau-Béraudière, Paris (acquired in 2002)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Milan, Palazzo Sociale, La Donna nell’Arte, Da Hayez a Modigliani, April–June 1953, no. 222, pp. 33, 161 (possibly; titled Testa)
      Milan, Palazzo Reale, Mostra di Amedeo Modigliani, November–December 1958, no. 16, p. 23 (illustrated, n.p.)
      Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Modigliani, January–February 1959, no. 11, pl. 8, n.p. (illustrated; titled Testa di ragazza)
      Frankfurt am Main, Steinernes Haus. Römerberg, Amedeo Modigliani, June 21–July 28, 1963, no. 12, n.p. (illustrated)
      London, Tate Gallery, The Arts Council of Great Britain 1963. Modigliani, September 28–November 3, 1963, no. 14, pl. 11, pp. 15-16 (illustrated, n.p.)
      Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, Arte moderna in Italia 1915-1935, February 26–May 28, 1967, no. 441, pp. 97, XXII (illustrated, p. 97; titled Louise)
      Prato, Galleria D’Arte Moderna Fratelli Farsetti, 100 Opere di Aristi Toscani, May–June 1972, no. 73, n.p. (illustrated)
      Verona, Galleria dello Scudo, Modigliani, dipinti e disegni. Incontri italiani 1900-1920, November 25, 1984–January 1, 1985, no. 30, p. 123
      Venice, Palazzo Grassi, 5 Artisti Toscani: Amedeo Modigliani, Ottone Rosai, Gino Severini, Ardengo Soffici, Lorenzo Viani, April 14–May 1, 1984, pp. 12-13 (illustrated, p. 13; illustrated on the cover)
      Verona, Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Palazzo Forti, Modigliani a Montparnasse 1909-1920, July 14–October 30, 1988, p. 38 (illustrated)
      Livorno, Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori Villa Mimbelli, Cézanne, Fattori e il '900 in Italia, December 7, 1997–April 13, 1998, no. 34, p. 113 (illustrated; titled Louise)
      Paris, Musée du Luxembourg; Milan, Palazzo Real, Modigliani: L’ange au visage grave, October 23, 2002–July 6, 2003, no. 41, pp. 230-231 (illustrated, p. 231)
      Paris, Galerie Cazeau-Béraudière, Morceaux choisis, 2004, pp. 112-113 (illustrated, p. 113)
      Tokyo, The Bunkamura Museum of Art; Sapporo, Museum of Contemporary Art; Osaka, Daimaru Museum Umeda; Shimane Art Museum; The Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum of Art, Mondigliani et Hébuterne, le couple tragique, April 7–December 16, 2007, no. 4, pp. 38-39, 200 (illustrated, p. 39)
      Madrid, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Modigliani y su tiempo, February 5–May 18, 2008, no. 61, pp. 106, 197 (illustrated, p. 106)
      Tokyo, The National Art Center; Osaka, The National Museum of Art, Modigliani et le primitivisme, March 26–September 15, 2008, no. 25, pp. 112-113, 248 (illustrated, p. 113)
      Bonn, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Amedeo Modigliani: ein Mythos der Moderne, April 17–August 30, 2009, no. 52, pp. 56, 177 (illustrated)
      The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Parijs Stad van de moderne kunst 1900-1960, October 15, 2011–January 29, 2012, pp. 68-69 (illustrated, p. 68)
      Rotterdam, Kunsthal, Avant-gardes 1870 to the present: The Collection of the Triton Foundation, October 7, 2012–January 20, 2013, pp. 360-361, 554 (illustrated, p. 361)
      Hangaram Art Museum, Seoul Arts Center, Modigliani: Legend of Montparnasse, June 26–October 4, 2015, pp. 105, 106-107 (illustrated, p. 107; detail illustrated, p. 105)
      Villeneuve-d'Ascq, LaM, Lille Métropole Musée d'art moderne, d'art contemporain et d'art brut, Amedeo Modigliani: L'oeil intérieur, February 27–June 5, 2016, no. 45, p. 70 (illustrated)
      Genova, Palazzo Ducale, Modigliani, March 16–July 16, 2017, no. 50, pp. 84-85, 119 (illustrated, pp. 85, 119)
      The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Art Deco–Paris, October 14, 2017–March 3, 2018, no. 4.09, p. 80 (illustrated)
      Vienna, The Albertina Museum, Modigliani: The Primitivist Revolution, September 17, 2021–January 9, 2022, no. 118, pp. 182-183, 211 (illustrated, p. 183)

    • Literature

      Arthur Pfannstiel, L'art et la vie Modigliani, Paris, 1929, p. 33 (possibly; titled Jeune Fille)
      Pierre Descargues, Amedeo Modigliani 1884-1920, Paris, 1951, pl. 7, n.p. (illustrated; titled Portrait)
      Ambrogio Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani: Peintre, Milan, 1958, no. 50, p. 48 (illustrated, n.p.)
      Renzo Modesti, Modigliani, Milan, 1959, no. IV, pp. 20-21 (illustrated, p. 20)
      Raffaele Carrieri, Pittura Scultura D'Avanguardia (1890-1960) In Italia, Milan, 1960, n.p. (illustrated)
      Nello Ponente, Modigliani, New York, 1969, no. 19
      Leone Piccioni and Ambrogio Ceroni, I dipiniti di Modigliani, Milan, 1970, no. 94, p. 92 (illustrated, n.p.)
      Jospeh Lanthemann, Modigliani 1884-1920. Catalogue Raisonné, Barcelona, 1970, no. 89, pp. 113, 182 (illustrated, p. 182; titled Tête de jeune fille (la petite Louise))
      Umberto Baldini, ed., Pittori Toscani del Novecento, Florence, 1978, p. 165 (illustrated)
      Jacques Lassaigne, Tout Modigliani. La peinture, Paris, 1982, no. 94, pp. 28, 32 (illustrated, p. 28)
      Osvaldo Patani, Amedeo Modigliani: Catalogo generale, Milan, 1991, no. 97, p. 117 (illustrated; titled Louise)
      Christian Parisot, Modigliani. Catalogue Raisonné. Peintures, dessins, aquarelles, vol. II, Livorno, 1991, no. 34, pp. 94, 285-286 (illustrated, p. 94; titled La petite Louise)
      Jean Luc Chalumeau, ed., Modigliani 1884-1920, Paris, 1997, fig. 15, p. 15 (illustrated; titled Louise)
      Têtes Fleuries: 19e en 20e eeuwse portretkunst uit de Triton Foundation, exh. cat., Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, 2007, p. 19 (illustrated)
      Guy-Patrice and Floriane Dauberville, MODIGLIANI. Amedeo Modigliani chez Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 2015, pp. 86-87 (illustrated, p. 87; titled Portrait de femme)



Tête de jeune fille (Louise)

signed "Modigliani" upper left
oil on board
20 x 14 5/8 in. (50.9 x 37.2 cm)
Painted in 1915.

We thank Marc Restellini for his assistance in researching this work.

This work has been requested for inclusion in the artist’s forthcoming exhibition Modigliani: Modern Gazes organized by the Museum Barberini, Postdam, to be held from April 27–August 18, 2024.

Full Cataloguing

$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

Sold for $5,868,000

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Kolberg
Associate Specialist, Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1206

Living the Avant-Garde: The Triton Collection Foundation, Evening Sale Part I

New York Auction 14 November 2023