Advanced Search

Flora de Stephano

Not on view

Flora de Stephano

Artist: Robert F. Blum (American, 1857-1903)

Date: c.1887
Medium: Soft graphite on wove paper
Overall: 21 5/8 × 13 3/8in. (54.9 × 34cm)
Signed: Recto, lower right (graphite): "Blum"
Credit Line: Museum Purchase with Funds from the Wallace Thurston Bequest
Object number: 91.22.2
Text Entries

Portrait drawings are rare in Blum’s oeuvre, and there is some reason to believe he made the MWPI sheet for personal reasons. It depicts an Italian woman, Flora de Stephano, with whom Blum appears to have been romantically involved in the 1880s. Bruce Weber has noted that Flora was the model for a compositionally similar etching Blum made around 1887, titled Head of a Woman. (1)

His sultry drawing of Flora was executed in soft graphite rubbed and blended around the eyes, chin, and neck with a draftsman’s stump. Uncluttered by costume or background, the portrait floats on an otherwise blank piece of paper. By positioning Flora’s head at the top of the sheet, Blum had sufficient space to draw her luxuriant hair with long graceful stokes of graphite. Flora’s cascading curls create an effect that is similar to the linear arabesques found in the Belle Epoque portraits of the Czech artist Alphonse Mucha.

Before traveling to Japan early in 1890, Blum painted a small oil of Flora’s house in Venice which he inscribed and left with her.(2) He may have given her the MWPI drawing at this time. A newspaper obituary about Blum that appeared in his hometown of Cincinnati, where he also diedm disclosed that in the 1890s, “a beautiful Italian woman rejected his love and married another.”(3) Was this Flora? Her successful suitor was William Mullins, a Massachusetts leather manufacturer in whose family the drawing descended.

1.An impression of this print is in the collections of the Cincinnati Art Museum. The identity of the woman in the MWPI drawing was confirned by Bruce Weber in a telephone conversation with the author, January 12, 1993. Weber noted that Flora was also the model for Blum’s pastel drawing, Filippino Woman, reproduced in American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture (New York: Sotheby’s, December 3, 1992), lot 84. Weber also noted that another drawing of Flora was sold by Sotheby’s on September 21 1984. There is a photograph of Flora in a private collection in Clearwater, Fla.; see Bruce Weber, “Robert Frederick Blum (1857-1903) and His Milieu” (Ph.D. diss., City University of new York, 1985), 324, 436, and fig. 259. According to an unpublished two-page essay about the MWPI drawing by L[isa]. N. P[eters]. Of the Spanierman Gallery, N.Y., an 1881 watercolor, Piazza San Marco, Venice (private collection, Toledo, Ohio) has an inscription by Blum, “To Flora.”

2.Weber, “Blum,” 324.

3.”Wormwood and Gall Artist Blum’s Portion,” Cincinnati Post, June 12, 1903, as cited in ibid., 324.


No known copyright restrictions.