|Edgar Degas, The Bellelli Sisters, 1865-66,|
|Edgar Degas, The Bellelli Family (Family Portrait), 1858-1867|
I wrote about the haunting Bellelli Family Portrait last year and it was quite a surprise running into The Bellelli Sisters, during my visit to Los Angeles Country Museum of Art two months ago, as if running into an old friend. In this portrait Degas' nieces, Giovanna and Guiliana Bellini, are depicted as young ladies as opposed to the little girls in pinafores they are in the family portrait. Degas was very fond of this painting and did not part with it his whole life because he never saw his cousins again after he painted this portrait. If he cared so much for his cousins, and taking into consideration the closeness he presumably shared with the girls' mother, his aunt Laura, then this begs the question of why he always chose to represent families in disconnect. Was it just a part of his artist-journalist persona of reporting his observations of the human condition or was it something else. The gallery label provides a comprehensive conclusion:
"Edgar Degas's talent for portraiture was manifested in radical compositions and the ability to express the character of his sitters with great subtlety. In this double portrait of his Italian cousins, he gives each figure her own space and direction, suggesting their distinct personalities. Giovanna faces the viewer, while Giulia is turned aside , focused elsewhere. The two sisters are a study in contrast:: one fair, the other dark; one in black, the other in a lighter, brown dress. Degas blurred the details of Giulia's face, perhaps imitating effects of photography."
LACMA gallery label and website