Van Dyck, Portrait of Paolina Adorna, Countess Brignole of Genoa, 1859
Notes from Italy by Degas, Genoa, 1859
Brignole Palace, 2.30, 2 April…
Am I attracted by the story of Van Dyck’s love for Countess Brignole, or do I just find it adorable without any preconceptions? Nothing could be more of a woman, a more supple or more distinguished hand.
I am really taken by it. There is perhaps more than a natural disposition in Van Dyck.
She is straight and light like a bird. Her head has blood and life as well as grace and finesse.
A small firm nose, a tight-lipped and turned-up mouth. Piercing, smiling eyes. It really is my beautiful Genoese and from a good family.
Her dress falls straight down like a serge with two beautiful, supple folds…
Letter to Gustav Moreau from Degas, Paris, 26 April, 1859
Genoa, beautiful and superb town! Ah! What beautiful Van Dycks! Go to the Brignole Palace, if you go through Genoa on your way home, and have a good look at the Countess Brignole on her own…
So inspiring to hear of Degas’ enthusiasm for this painting. He was captivated. There he was, standing there, most likely in his French suit, top hat and fashionable walking stick absorbed in the beauty of the painting. Feeling. Observing. Wondering. Inspired. So much so that he just had to write about it.