Portrait of a Woman
[Lucien Lefebvre-Foinet Gallery, Paris]. Unknown party, known only as “R. N.”; sold to Redfern Gallery, London, by Jan. 1942; sold to Charles Collingwood, London, by Oct. 1942. [Feigl Gallery, New York, by summer 1948]; sold to Henry Pearlman, by 11 July 1949; Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, by 1971.
This woman with an anxious expression seems to wear the uniform of a maid or waitress. Soutine frequently painted people dressed in uniforms: bakers, bellhops, and choirboys. By 1929, however, he had become friendly with the Paris decorator Madeleine Castaing, who, with her husband, Marcellin, would become his major collector and primary means of support after the death of his dealer in 1932. In Mme Castaing’s milieu, the "little black dress" that Coco Chanel had introduced in the 1920s would have been considered chic, so this work might instead be a portrait of a paying client. Such ambiguity appears frequently in works by Soutine, who accorded equal attention to portraits of people in service and depictions of their employers.