Portrait of an Attorney

Stanislav Szukalski
Portrait of an Attorney
Charcoal, 1933
33 x 29 1/2 inches
Gift of Nancy Dustin Wall Moure
1995.046

Stanislav Szukalski made a series of “inner portraits,” as he called them, in which he attempted to bring out the two most contradictory and dominant features of his sitters and, by means of stylized physiognomy, intensify the real personality.

The subject of this idealized portrait is a certain Mr. Rizzi, the lawyer who assisted Szukalski in the divorce from his first wife, Helen. As Szukalski wrote, “He was instrumental in my getting a Mexican divorce, as it was termed, and for his services I made him this portrait. Being an Italian-American, I drew the Lupita (She-wolf) holding a basket with her twins, Romulus and Remus.” The artist depicted the twin founders of Rome in the top right-hand corner of the drawing; and in his typical fashion, Szukalski has paid very close attention to arcane cultural iconography in his portrayal of the she-wolf. The artist explained, “Actually, the Etruscan sculptors, having no Lions in Italy, like in Britain and Scandinavia, likened the legendary Great Lioness to a local animal, hence to a Wolf, though on her neck they gave little curls instead of a large mane, as the remote remembrance about Lions continued to repeat verbally.”

Szukalski portrays the subject of Portrait of an Attorney as a monumental figure with a knitted brow and aquiline nose, a man of extraordinary strength and integrity, yet subject to the grotesque pride and doggedness that come with a towering reputation and intellectual powers. Szukalski shows the profile of the attorney from below and at an angle, with the she-wolf looming spectrally above. Szukalski’s simplification of form and elimination of detail creates a subject that appears to be sculpted out of stone. The work achieves a singular juxtaposition of the classical and the bizarre that perfectly suits Szukalski’s radical dogmatism.