Seeing Florine Stettheimer’s “A Model (Nude Self-Portrait)”... Read More
Verbal Description tours at the Jewish Museum bring our exhibitions to life for visitors who are blind or have low vision, using descriptive language and touch objects to convey the visual world. In conjunction with Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry, an exhibition dedicated to Jazz Age painter, poet, designer, and early feminist, the following verbal description closely examines a work by Florine Stettheimer, possibly the earliest known nude self-portrait by a female artist.
A Model by Florine Stettheimer is a large, horizontal, nude, considered to be a self-portrait of Florine Stettheimer. The painting is four feet high and more than five feet across.
She painted this piece at the age of 45. In it, Stettheimer is reclining but propped up on her right side by large pillows. She lies on a mostly white comforter or textile with red vine accents. On the left side of the painting her arm is bent at the elbow and she rests her head delicately on her finger tips. She has a modern looking short-ish red hairstyle. On the bed below this arm is a golden necklace made of circular beads.
Her other arm is also bent at the elbow but drawn in to her body with her forearm extended straight up. In the air she holds a bouquet of flowers, providing some of the only saturated color in the piece. Stettheimer’s legs are crossed at the ankles, leaving her pale body on display for the viewer.
The expression on her face is a mixture of aloof, bemused, and knowing. She looks right at the viewer, and her red lips are together and slightly curved upward into a very subtle smile.
The background of this piece is less intricate than her later work. Behind the figure is a curtain depicted through vertical brushwork of white and light lilac. The brushwork is thick and visible, giving the background a great amount of dimension. It is flanked, across the top edge and side edges of the painting, by a light pink curtain, with black fringe. These curtains however don’t extend all the way down the left and right sides of the work; they are interrupted by the model’s sumptuous pillow.
This painting is inspired in part by Edouard Manet’s 1863 painting entitled “Olympia.” In Manet’s painting, the model is meeting the viewer’s gaze, wearing a gold bracelet with a maid behind her carrying flowers from an admirer. Olympia was more than likely modeled on a sex worker and for that reason caused a scandal at the Paris Salon of 1865. In contrast, Stettheimer is featured by herself, holding her own bouquet in the air.
To learn more about programs for visitors with disabilities at the Jewish Museum, visit TheJewishMuseum.org/Access. All programs are free.
Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry is on view at the Jewish Museum through September 24.
Seeing Florine Stettheimer’s “A Model (Nude Self-Portrait)” Through Language was originally published in The Jewish Museum on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.