NEW YORK (RNS) — The visual key to Amedeo Modigliani’s self-conscious Jewishness, says Mason Klein, the curator of “Modigliani Unmasked,” an exhibition at New York’s Jewish Museum, is a small sketch called “Self-Portrait With Beard.”
Since the original drawing was stolen in 1977, the image in the show is a copy. But it serves Klein’s point handily. It looks nothing like Modigliani’s most famous portraits, those languid nudes with elongated, masklike faces. Indeed, the “self-portrait” looks little like the actual Modigliani, who was Byronically handsome. It portrays an almost circular head with heavy-lidded eyes above a largish nose and a full beard.