VITTORIO MATTEO CORCOS
(Livorno 1859 - Firenze 1933)
MARIA LUISA ISABELLA SPADA VERALLI, PRINCESS POTENTIANI AND OF SAN MAURO
Oil on canvas, 176 x 231 cm
Signed and dated lower right: V. Corcos 1901
Private collection, London
Vittorio Corcos. Il fantasma e il fiore, I. Taddei (ed), exhibition catalogue, Florence 1997, p. 106, no. 41; F. Mazzocca, Corcos e il primato del ritratto tra Otto e Novecento, in Corcos i sogni della Belle Epoque, I. Taddei, F. Mazzocca, C. Sisi (eds.), exhibition catalogue, Venice 2013, p. 27; F. Mazzocca, Corcos, "Art Dossier", Florence 2014, p. 41.
The woman portrayed is Maria Luisa Spada Veralli, (Bologna, 25th January 1853 - Rome 2nd February 1902) married in 1872 with Giovanni Grabinski, Prince Potenziani and of San San Mauro. The noble woman attended the most important Roman socities, including the drawing room of Prince Giuseppe Primoli, her dear friend. Some photos certify this relationship.
A refined and elegant woman, in 1901 she decided to be portrayed by Vittorio Matteo Corcos, who - at the time - enjoyed a reputation as a great portraitist at the imperial court of Berlin, the royal court of Lisbon and the Casa Savoia. Vittorio Matteo Corcos has the merit of having elaborated a type of courtly portrait that made his fortune thanks to the great Italian aristocracy. He idealized his wealthy clients, extolling them in sumptuous surroundings.
In this canvas, albeit with a subtle ironic vein, Corcos applies the formula of the deified portrait, depicting Princess Potenziani like the goddess Diana (in fact the wears her emblem between her hairs: the half-moon-shaped tiara). The chosen iconography is ispired by two masterpieces of the neoclassical era: the Paolina Borghese come Venere vincitrice by Antonio Canova and Madame Récamier by Jacques Louis David.
Lying on a chaise longue, with a sumptuous drape behind it on which appears the coat of arms of the Potenziani family, she observes the viewer with a distant gaze. A pink and rustling silk dress binds her noble forms. The diffused luminosity and soft hues echo the French Rococo pastels. The setting is also neo-seventeenth-century, with the Louis XVI style carved wooden table. Some roses - now unmade and scattered on the floor - give the image a decadent aura, fin de siècle, with a sort of D'Annunzio flavor. However, the roses could also allude to the brevity of life: almost an omen of the imminent death of the noblewoman, which occurred - at only forty-nine years old - the following year.
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