Jeanne Hébuterne was an art student when she met Modigliani in 1917. She soon became his companion and the great love of his life. Her distinctive appearance and mysterious expression inspired Modigliani to paint her numerous times. In Jeanne Hébuterne Sitting she is shown pregnant with their child, Jeanne, also known as Giovanna, who was born in November 1918.
Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne Sitting, 1918 Private collection, Switzerland.Jeanne came from a bourgeois Catholic family whose members disapproved of the much older Modigliani because of his bohemian lifestyle and Jewishness. By the time Modigliani became involved with Jeanne his family back in Italy were no longer able to support him due to financial difficulties. Impoverished and physically unwell, Modigliani became volatile after consuming copious quantities of drugs and alcohol. Nonetheless, Jeanne fell for his good looks and charm. She remained devoted to Modigliani and committing suicide soon after his death in January 1920.
With her long, curved neck, her elongated, oval face, almond-shaped eyes and small, pursed lips, this portrait represents the artist’s mature style. Modigliani’s late works are suffused with melancholy and it has often been remarked that their tranquillity contrasts with the chaos of the artist’s personal life. Although he regularly includes imperfections – Jeanne is shown here with a small double chin, for instance – Modigliani never offends completely the traditional notions of beauty.