LEONOR FINI (1908-1996)
ProvenancePao Ying, Milan (acquired directly from the artist)
Heather James Fine Art, acquired from the above
ExhibitionMilan, Galleria Tommaso Calabro, Leonor Fini. Italian Fury. As dreamed by Francesco Vezzoli, 1 April – 25 June 2022
LiteratureR. Overstreet and N. Zuckerman, Leonor Fini Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Vol. II, Zurich, 2021, no. 623, p. 394 (illustrated in colour)
Portraiture, for Leonor Fini, proved to be the staple of her oeuvre that she never tired of pursuing. When she was 17, the painting she exhibited in Trieste garnered so much attention that she was flooded with commissions from local dignitaries. And when you consider the list of people she collaborated with, or who came into her circle of intimates over the following decades, it is a remarkable list. Her persona was one of drama, mystery, and intrigue, and she pulled others into her sphere.
For twenty years, during the 1950s and 60s, every August 30, the day of her birthday, Fini would organize a sumptuous party at the old monastery at the convent of Saint-Francois di Nonza, a village set in a stunning clifftop location on the west coast of Cap Corse, Corsica. Among the invitees were Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Meret Oppenheim, Jacques Audiberti, Ernst Fuchs (among many others), and none other than the very attractive and talented Pao Ying Wang. Born in 1923, she was a talented jewelry artist with Surrealist inclinations. Pao was also an engaging interlocutor. The list of suitors vying for her attention included Ezra Pound, who was said to be madly in love with her. But the love of Pao Ying Wang’s life proved to be her life partner for thirty-five years, the great Milanese architect Ignazio Gardella. Leonor Fini’s intentions for this portrait of Pao seem clear. Fini painted her good friend directly and with a commanding sense of permanence. Above all, Leonora wanted to create a lasting impression. She wanted you to know that not only was Pao a woman worth knowing, but one worth never forgetting.
The painting remained with Pao Ying Wang throughout her long life. She passed away in 2016.
Top Results at Auction
"Autoportrait au scorpion" (1938) sold for $2,319,000.
"Figures on a Terrace" (1938) sold for $980,000.
"Les Aveugles" (1968) sold for $867,000.
Comparable Paintings Sold at Auction
"Portrait surréaliste d'Adriana" (1957-1958) sold for $425,000.
"L'Inondation" (1939) sold for $352,000.
"Portrait de María Félix I or Reina del fuego" (c. 1954) sold for $352,800.
Paintings in Museum Collections
The catalogue raisonné of Leonor Fini’s oil paintings, authored by Richard Overstreet and Neil Zukerman, was published in 2021. Portrait of Pao Ying is listed on page 394 as painting number 625.