Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Woman with a Pearl
This is a totally personal transposition of the Mona Lisa. In the past the leaf on the girl's forehead was taken to be a pearl. Berthe Goldschmidt, the model, is wearing one of the Italian dresses Corot brought back from his travels abroad.
The title, which remains unexplained, seems to echo another portrait of a young woman by Jan Vermeer. There is the same enigma concerning the model, the same gaze, the same uncertainty about the costume. The blue and yellow turban in Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring is described as 'Turkish', while Corot has taken his inspiration from Italian or Greek peasant dress. Then there is the pearl: readily recognizable in the Vermeer, it takes the form here of a dark-colored ornament, part of a transparent veil covering the upper part of the young woman's forehead.
Her forehead partly veiled, the young woman is seated with her forearms crossed and her hands idle. The image that at once springs to mind - except for the landscape in the background - is Leonardo's Mona Lisa. However the hairstyle, the oval face, the costume and the colors are reminiscent of Raphael. What exactly Corot's intention was here is far from easy to say. We cannot ignore the fact that until the early 19th century the Mona Lisa attracted very little attention, and that the interest underlying today's myth only appeared with the Romantic movement of around 1830. Multiple reproduction was on the rise and in response there came in 1859 the famous engraving by Calamatta. [The Louvre]