Unknown title (Coty) (c. 1917) by Amadeo de Souza-CardosoCentro de Arte Moderna Gulbenkian
Untitled (Coty), dated circa 1917, is one of the most emblematic works of the final phase of production of Amadeo de Sousa-Cardoso. Curiously, the main theme of the painting is the representation of the female figure in front of the mirror, whose naked body stands out in the centre of the composition, a subject matter which had disappeared from Amadeo’s canvases and drawings.
Nevertheless, ‘Coty’ presents several recurrent themes
in Amadeo’s work, such as windows, insects, cards, popular ceramics and
letters. The painting's complexity is related to the movement and combination of materials and techniques, through the use of collage including a series of elements belonging to the female universe, like the iconographic reference to ‘Coty’ perfume.
Amadeo refers to the revolutionary figure of the perfume industry François Coty, who in 1904, in Paris, founded the perfume brand which still exists today.
A reference to the fragrance was found in a letter that Amadeo wrote in 1913 to Lucie, whom he married the following year, and to whom he gifted the perfume.
Next to the representation of a perfume bottle the artist has stuck a thick fragment of a mirror, an element that gives the painting relief and three-dimensionality.
In the upper left-hand corner, Amadeo included several fragments of mirrors, one in the shape of an irregular pentagon and the others triangular; one of the mirrors is cracked.
Imitating wood, the 'trompe l'oeil' where the mirrors are pasted, in the area at the top left-hand side, creates a harsh, rough surface.
The beaded necklace, on the neck of the female figure, is embedded in the painting, creating a more irregular and bumpy texture on the pictorial surface.
Another element that features in a more uneven area of the pictorial surface are the hairpins.
In contrast, the body of the figure is the area where the brushwork is more uniform and luminous, maintaining a smoother pictorial surface.
The range of colours in the painting – white, yellow, pink, red, orange, green, blue and brown – enriches the scene.
The fragmentation of the gaze that characterised
modernity at the beginning of the 20th century enabled Amadeo to reflect and self-reference in ‘Coty’, through the skilful use of mirrors, which also bring in the public observing the painting.
Text by Patrícia Rosas
Curator of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum