As an introduction to the Giovanni Boldini exhibition catalogue (1842 - 1931), which was held at the Zabarella Palace in Padova, Frencesca Dini published a study (1) which illustrates, among other documents, a drawing with the following caption:
«Paul Helleu, Boldini e il tenore Tamberlick, Montecatini Terme, Archivio Piero Dini».
The following year, this same drawing was taken up again by the same author to illustrate a fresh article for the exhibition catalogue "Boldini, Helleu, Sem / Protagonisti e miti della Belle Epoque". The event took place at Pasquini castle in Castiglioncello (Tuscany). That time the drawing used the following caption: "Paul-César Helleu, Boldini con il tenore Enrico Tamberlick, Archivo Privato".
If we can indeed recognise the painter Boldini in the lines of the character in the background of the drawing, the pianist is obviously the painter Jacques-Emile Blanche (1861 - 1942), aged 23 or 24.
In fact we are familiar with the fact that the son of Doctor Blanche, the famous psychiatrist, was a highly skilled pianist who, at the start of his career, was torn between painting and music, which he mentions in his memoirs entitled La pêche aux souvenirs (Fishing for memories) (2) In fact we are familiar with the fact that the son of Doctor Blanche, the famous psychiatrist, was a highly skilled pianist who, at the start of his career, was torn between painting and music, which he mentions in his memoirs entitled La pêche aux souvenirs (Fishing for memories)(2): "I hesitated between painting and music; ultimately a copy of Le Parnasse by Mantegna, that I did at the Louvre in 1880 and which Baudry, Gustave Moreau and Bonnat wanted to buy, was to decide in favour of the palette".
What's more, Jacques-Emile Blanche, to use his own words, was "born to music" (3) . Indeed, didn't the composer Charles Gounod, his father's closest friend, take him under his wing and christen him "little Mozart"? "The piano... how much I've reasoned with it since my childhood", Jacques-Emile Blanche noted in his diary in 1931 (4), as Roger Delage reports in his essay(5) devoted to the painter's passion for music.
Moreover, we know that throughout the first half of the 1880s, Jacques-Emile Blanche suffered from obesity and that he weighed up to 116kg. Jean-Louis Forain (1852 - 1931) testifies to this in his portrait of him completed in 1884, which is today owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Rouen. Six amis à Dieppe (Six friends in Dieppe) by Edgar Degas (1834 - 1817) also testifies to this in a pastel which is kept at the Museum of Art in Rhode Island. This pastel, created by the master in 1885, whilst he was holidaying at Jacques-Emile Blanche's parents' house, shows us their son in profile, at the top right-hand side of the page, alongside the painter Walter Sickert, the librettist Ludovic Halévy and his son Daniel, the painter Henri Gervex (1852 - 1929) and Albert Boulanger-Cavé. We can again observe that Jacques-Emile Blanche, as in the drawing by Paul-César Helleu and in his portrait by Jean-Louis Forain, suffers from considerable portliness.
Finally, we know that from 1882, Jacques-Emile Blanche and Paul-César Helleu were friends and regularly saw each other around 1885 in Paris, London and Dieppe. During this same period, Jacques-Emile Blanche also saw a great deal of Giovanni Boldini. Indeed we can't fail to spot that in this intimist drawing showing Jacques-Emile Blanche at the piano, Paul-César Helleu was careful to depict the signet ring bearing the arms of Blanche de Beslou, which the painter wore throughout his life on the little finger of his left hand, and which you can still see today in the photo taken of him in Dieppe by Henri Walter Barnett in 1920
(1)Francesca Dini "Dalla "Macchia" alla Belle Epoque / Il geniale virtuosismo di Boldini" in Boldini, Marsilio publications 2005 pp 17 - 37. (↑)
(2) Jacques-Emile Blanche La pêche aux souvenirs (Fishing for memories) Flammarion 1949 p 133. (↑)
(3) Jacques-Emile Blanche's unpublished diary. Ms Institute library - 4817 p 23.(↑)
(4) Jacques-Emile Blanche's unpublished diary. Ms Institute library - 4803 p 35.(↑)
(5) Roger Delage "Un fou de musique" (A music fanatic) in Jacques-Emile Blanche painter (1861 - 1942) Museum of Fine Arts in Rouen and Meeting of the National Museums 1997 publications.(↑)
Dernière modification par Stéphane-Jacques Addade, le 23/03/2015