The Last Muse: Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne, and Jeanne Modigliani


Jeanne Hébuterne (1898 -1920) is best remembered as the muse and common-law wife of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani (1884 -1920) whose portrait she painted. Born in Paris she was introduced to the artistic community by her brother. It was while she was pursuing her own artistic studies that she met Modigliani. Against her bourgeois Roman Catholic family's wishes she fell in love with the poor Jewish artist and moved in with him. Hébuterne became the principle model for Modigliani's figurative paintings and bore him a daughter named Jeanne. The brilliant artist combined his knowledge of classical European painting with the influence of non-Western tribal art to create his elegant, reflective portraits. In contrast life with Modigliani was chaotic and challenging; he was alcoholic, drug addicted and temperamental. Suffering from tuberculosis he chose “a brief but intense life”. At the age of thirty-five he lay dying in a squalid bed surrounded by empty wine bottles and open sardine tins. Modigliani was taken to a Paris charity hospital where he died. Two days later Hébuterne, twenty-one and pregnant with their second child, jumped to her death from a fifth floor window. Their daughter, Jeanne Modigliani (1918 -1984) was raised by her paternal aunt and would go on to become an art scholar and write the biography of her father, Modigliani, Man and Myth. She was photographed in front of a photo of her father by LIFE Magazine photographer Ralph Crane.