Samuel-Jean Pozzi (1846–1918) was a pioneer in the field of modern gynecology in France; his practices advanced the reproductive safety and dignity of women. He was also an aesthete and an art collector whom Sargent greatly revered. The artist’s admiration for his charismatic sitter is evident in this dramatic portrait. Sargent portrays the worldly man in an almost ecclesiastical mode, with a gracious, slightly mannered pose and crimson costume that reference images of popes and cardinals by the old masters. Pozzi’s long fingers and elegant hands suggest his surgical prowess but also hint at his sensuality, which is further evoked by his informal dressing gown and the lush velvet curtains. This portrait was the first work Sargent exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1882.
In his portrait Dr. Pozzi at Home, Sargent makes the brilliant surgeon's hands the focal point of the composition. Within the dramatic crimson painting, Sargent accentuates the pale flesh of Pozzi's face and hands by framing them with the crisp, white pleated collar and cuffs of his shirt. Pozzi's slender and elegant hands remind the viewer of his profession and his renowned surgical skills. Yet his long attenuated fingers pulling at the sash and collar of his dressing gown evoke his well-known reputation as a sensualist. (https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2015/sargent-portraits-of-artists-and-friends/blog/posts/sargent-portrayal-of-hands)
oil on canvas