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The Servant Girl
The Servant Girl (La jeune bonne)
Amedeo Modigliani painted ‘The Servant Girl’, or as it is known in its original language, ‘La jeune bonne’, in 1918 with oil on canvas. The style and expression of the composition is unmistakably Amedeo Modigliani. The elongated facial features, the graceful lines of the subject’s body, as well as the simplicity of the background are well-known trademarks of Modigliani’s work.
‘The Servant Girl’ shows a young woman standing in a somewhat awkward position against a bluish-grey wall, with her hands solemnly folded in front of her. Is she waiting for her next assignment from her employer? Her gaze is haunting. Her eyes are gaping holes in her long, narrow face. Some have deemed it to signify a void within the artist, while others find it to be representative of a lost innocence. Nevertheless, many believe that, although eyes are supposedly windows to the soul, hers purposefully prevent onlookers from seeing inside her in order to know her better. Especially intriguing, is the fact that, even with her lack of pupils, viewers can feel her direct, chilling gaze. The servant girl wears the traditional domestic dress with a black bodice and white trim, and her hair is tied back in simple fashion. Modigliani’s placement of her in the corner helps to further emphasize her submissive demeanour, yet he ensured that her attitude boldly reflect her dignity and inner power.
Analysis and Reviews
With regard to the servant girl’s candid, yet noble stature, and the artist’s use of color, the education department of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery states the following: “Modigliani achieved this sense of quiet nobility through the use of color and line to unify the composition. The curved lines and repeated and overlapping oval shapes create a gentle rhythm that gives ‘The Servant Girl’ a certain softness and grace. The colors are also subtly expressive, with blues and grays accented by the white of the collar, the red of the floor, and the golden glow of her skin.”
In review of Modigliani’s style and skill, Edward Lucie-Smith believes that “Amedeo Modigliani was the bohemian artist par excellence - his posthumous legend is almost as famous as Van Gogh's. In stylistic terms he was an oddity: contemporary with the Cubists, but not part of their movement, he forms a bridge between the generation of Toulouse-Lautrec and the Art Deco painters of the 1920s.” - Edward Lucie-Smith, (Lives of the Great 20th-Century Artists)
‘The Servant Girl’ by Amedeo Modigliani is located at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., USA.