Portrait of an unknown model

Amedeo Modigliani, 1884 - 1920

Portrait of an unknown model

Amedeo Modigliani 1884 - 1920


Stylised, head and shoulders front view of young woman with auburn, shoulder-length hair, wearing a black v-necked garment. She is seated on a chair against a plain yet textured blue-green background with a pale ochre strip on the right. Her almond-shaped eyes have no pupils or irises but are the same blue-green as the background. Modigliani invented a unique and instantly recognisable style of portraiture. His heavily stylised paintings regularly featured a long neck, elongated oval face, sloping shoulders, blank eyes and pursed lips. He included no clue as to the status of the sitter and the subject is unnamed. A serene elegance characterises all his work, despite his own chaotic private life. If all the people in his portraits have a similar look, how does Modigliani capture the essence of an individual's personality? Modigliani was only fascinated by the appearance of the human form and with the face in particular. The empty eyes make the emotionless face appear hollow, as if the model can be peered through from behind like a mask. This portrait was originally thought to be of Jeanne Hebuterne, Modigliani's common-law wife and muse, to whom he said, "when I know your soul, I will paint your eyes."

Display Label

Gallery text panel Tradition and Experiment Early Twentieth-Century Art 1900 - 1939. In Britain, the beginning of the 20th century coincided with the end of the Victorian age. Artists and designers experimented, challenging traditional ways of seeing and making; now trying to create a new art for a modern era. In painting, it was often traditional subject matter such as portraits, landscapes and interiors that would be tackled in new ways. The bustle and the brutality of urban life was an inspiration or something to escape from. Boundaries became increasingly blurred between design and decoration, painting and making and individual expression replaced academic authority. Art was made to be affordable and at a scale that would fit into ordinary homes. Some called the celebration of the modern into question after the horrors of the First World War. Traditional imagery was simplified or became childlike and slowly broke down into fragmented visions. Dream and chance tapped into subconscious anxieties and in 1939, world war intervened once again.

Object Name

Portrait of an unknown model

Creators Name

Amedeo Modigliani

Date Created

1918 (circa)


Sight: 64cm x 53cm
framed: 94.8cm x 83.7cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint


© Manchester Art Gallery

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