The Passion Of Modigliani
Yesterday this painting was sold to Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian for $170m.
Think about that for a moment. One hundred and seventy million dollars. Extraordinary.
Christie’s chose the right month in which to sell it, with the Sun in Scorpio, since the subject of this picture is passion. Sex in the midst of death: this is Scorpio’s realm.
Jeanne Hébuterne, Amedeo Modigliani’s live-in lover, the mother of his child, and his muse, had Scorpio rising. On her descendant, the angle of partnership, Venus and Mercury conjoin across fiery Aries and sensual Taurus. That Venus (in detriment!) is in the very final degree of Aries, so it has extra impact. She is certainly portrayed here as a goddess of love, but also reduced to an object of desire. She certainly does not have the defiant regard of, say, Manet’s Olympia. Where is her gaze? Balanced by her mount of Venus, which thrusts forward out of the painting. Venus in Aries, the sign that comes first.
Jeanne was immortalised many times on canvas by Modigliani. The pair were famously madly in love. They lived a rackety, hashish/absinthe-hazed existence in a squalid flat in Montparnasse.
This painting was produced during the last years of World War I. Modigliani was already too ill to go for a soldier. Maybe his obsession with Jeanne’s sensuality, her vivid animal nature (Sun in Aries) was partly because he knew he was dying — and a generation was being slaughtered at Ypres and the Somme.
Right now the planet of electricity (and maybe revivification), transiting Uranus, is directly on Jeanne’s natal Sun, while the Sun in Scorpio sends an inconjunct (all at 17°).
A reader has written to tell me that this may not actually be Jeanne Hébuterne. I have dug around briefly this morning and it seems that this could be an idealised picture rather than a portrait. Here is what the Christie’s catalogue says. I think it’s interesting that the name of the model is so elusive.
Just two years after this painting was finished, Modigliani died of TB. Jeanne threw herself from a window the following day. Transiting Jupiter (bringer of blessing) and Neptune (sacrifice) were crossing her MC and on his Jupiter.
Right now, we have Jupiter and Neptune at work again, but this time they are in opposition across Virgo and Pisces right on Modigliani’s Asc-Desc axis. Jupiter, also at 17°, is increasing his value for sure. Neptune just took that inflation into the stratosphere.