Private collection, The Netherlands
Jean-Gabriel Domergue was a French painter specializing in portraits of Parisian women. He was born in Bordeaux and studied at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. In 1906, at the young age of seventeen, he exhibited at the Salon Des Artistes Francais. In 1911, he was a second-prize winner of the Prix de Rome and in 1920 won the gold medal award.
At the beginning of his career, Domergue was recognized for landscape painting, but from the 1920s he concentrated on being the painter of the "Parisian lady". With many of his paintings being nudes, he later claimed to be "the inventor of the pin-up". Indeed, as an artist Domergue had invented a new type of woman: thin, airy, elegant, with a swan-like neck, and wide seductive eyes, which gaze upon the world with longing. His elegant mastery of the paintbrush places him in the tradition of artists such as Fragonard and Watteau who in the 18th century helped establish the canons of beauty of their epoch. He also designed numerous dresses, hats and accessories for famous couturier such as Paul Poiret and Henry Marque. From 1955 until 1962 Domergue was the curator of the Musée Jacquemart-André, organising exhibitions of the works of Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Goya and others. He was appointed a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur and received the Knight of the Legion of Honour Award and Fellow of the Academy of Fine Arts Award.
In the tradition of Domergue’s elegant society women, the central female figure of our painting is fashionably dressed. She is wearing a strapless dress with black gloves, though less of her dress is visible than is typical with Domergue’s works. Nearly all the focus is instead on her creamy and graceful décolleté and playful expression, set off by a white flower necklace and white and black hat. Her posture is graceful, with one arm leaning on the balcony’s railing. She stares out directly at the viewer with a seductive gaze and bright red lips. Behind her, painterly swirls indicate figures placed in balconies, suggesting an opera house or theatre, set against a backdrop of electrifying red.