'Lady in Black Furs', Pilade Bertieri
Oil on canvas, painted between 1910-1912
Acc. No. WAG 2739
This is a portrait of Bertieri’s wife, Genevieve Wilson, the daughter of wealthy New York socialites. They met in 1905 on a liner voyage between Italy and America and married in 1906. Reportedly Bertieri was first attracted to the eighteen-year old Genevieve by her graceful posture while seated in a deckchair, an episode here elegantly reconstructed in a more fashionable chair.
The black furs that swathe her, and from which gleam red-eyed fox heads, evoke her wealth and superiority. Bertieri painted another portrait of Genevieve in the same furs, shoes and velvet and satin dress in 1912, when she was pregnant with their first child.
The Italian artist made his living in New York, London, Paris and Rome portraying society figures and international celebrities such as the opera singer Caruso. In England his portraits were often considered to rival those of the Irish artist John Lavery (1856-1941).