Material / technique: oil on canvas.
Dimensions: 65,5x54,5 cm.
Signature: Napoleon Iłłakowicz 1852 (in the bottom-left corner of the painting).
The legacy of a troubled soul and participant of the 1831 Uprising, painter Napoleonas Ylakavičius, has finally been returned to Lithuania. The Portrait of a Woman, which was painted in Paris, is a valuable example of Napoleonas Ylakavičius’ mature period and reflects his typical manner of painting. The portrait shows an unknown woman, who was probably someone close to the artist, and displays a typical mid 19th century mixture of academic and realistic manner as well as traces of the Biedermeier style, which can be seen in the informal mood and the depiction of a simple, cosy home environment. The work is notable for the woman’s natural pose, thorough academic drawing manner, lively facial expression, smooth brushwork, even surface, moderate colours, and sensitive approach to detail. The subdued colours and slightly brighter background create a kind of aura that surrounds the figure of the woman and allows the viewers to concentrate on her face; this reveals the artistic techniques the author had acquired in an academic environment. The artist not only skilfully captures the likeness, but also reveals the psychological state of the depicted woman.
The work was produced in the same year as the “Self portrait” (1852), which is preserved in the Lithuanian Art Museum and is the only work by Ylakavičius of that year in Lithuania. The painting is not only interesting as a work of art, but as a cultural artefact, as well - it is a newly discovered, previously unknown work from Ylakavičius’ sparse creative legacy that is scattered throughout Europe.
Reference: ARS VIA Art and Collectible Auction, description of the painting (by dr. Lijana Natalevičienė).