Juana Romani - Parisian Artist of Romance, Mystery, Tragedy

Emerging from the darkness is the biblical figure of Hérodiade or Hérodias, who along with her daughter Salomé, orchestrated the death of John the Baptist... Daniel Katz Gallery introduces a beautiful work by French artist Juana Romani (1869-1924) whose life ended in tragic circumstances.

Juana Romani (1869-1924), Hérodiade, c.1890, Oil on panel, Signed Juana Romani (upper right), 116.5 x 80 cm. Courtesy of Daniel Katz Gallery

Emerging from the darkness is the biblical figure of Hérodiade or Hérodias, who along with her daughter Salomé, orchestrated the death of John the Baptist. Here the artist, Juana Romani has portrayed her as the ultimate femme fatale - at once alluring and malevolent, but also intelligent and defiant. A single source of light illuminates Herodias from above, catching and highlighting her face, neck and arm, as she steps out of the shadows.

The frame is the original Salon frame for when the painting was first exhibited in 1890. It is a splendid example of the late 19th century style for an ornate gilded frame with floral and foliate decoration. The deep dazzling colour does much to compliment and highlight the shimmering effects of light which Romani has achieved in the painting - as the light catches Herodias' gleaming auburn hair and the gold embroidery of her belt.

Juana Romani (1869-1924) is perhaps the ultimate Romantic character, and with this painting the mystery and intrigue perfectly encapsulates the enigmatic figure of the artist. She no doubt saw some of her own character in some of the historical female figures she chose to portray. A pioneering Italian born female painter, sometime muse, and Parisian society figure, she tragically died in obscurity in a psychiatric clinic on the outskirts of Paris.

Exhibiting at the Salon of the Société des Artistes Français from 1888 until 1904, she gained during this time unparalleled success as a female artist, receiving great critical acclaim and becoming highly sought after amongst wealthy Parisian patrons. She was also a pioneer of early brand endorsement, and her image was used in various prominent advertising campaigns of the time, with a reputation as a charismatic and known 'personality' of the day.

In 1904 her career as an artist was brought to a tragic end as she began to suffer paranoid hallucinations. Bouts of ill health were exacerbated in 1905 when the artist Jean-Jacques Henner, with whom she had been very close, died followed by her mother in 1909. Both events greatly affected her and she was interned in an asylum for the insane, dying in anonymity in 1923. It is only in relatively recent years, notably with the 2017 monographic exhibition in her home town of Velletri, that the full extent of Romani's life has begun to come to the fore. Indeed, only now is the true magnitude of her talent beginning to be fully appreciated by a wider audience.