The young woman sits with arms folded on the padded arm of a chair and gazes confidently towards the viewer. Together with Parisian Vegetable Seller
and, in particular, Boy in a Sailor Suit
, the painting forms part of a trio of dark-blue Parisian portraits which Ivan Kobilca painted in parallel with her bright plein air
and blue-and-white works.
The sense of melancholy exuded by the trio can be attributed to the painter’s general disposition, enhanced by the difficult circumstances of a Parisian ménage that also included Rosa Pfäffinger, Maria Slavona and Willy Gretor. In 1892 Kobilca submitted the painting to the Salon of the Société nationale des beaux-arts along with the plein air work Under a Pergola and thus demonstrated once again her stylistic range and her love of exploration and experimentation, so characteristic of her work between 1888 and 1893. The painting was next exhibited in Vienna in 1893, where it attracted the attention of the satirical newspaper Der Floh, whose writer suggested that, with only one painted arm, the girl in the painting was “reminiscent not of Nelson but of his fleet” (an ambiguous allusion to sprightliness, cheerfulness, or perhaps something more vulgar).
In the spring of 1902 the work was bought by the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. It attracted attention once again with the filming of a documentary about Ivana Kobilca (Ivana Kobilca – Portrait of a Painter, Fabula and RTV Slovenia, 2008). It has been on view as part of the Permanent Collection of the National Gallery since January 2016.