Melba goes to the National Gallery of Australia

A portrait of Dame Nellie Melba, one of the largest and most dramatic paintings in the Grainger Museum Collection, is currently on loan to the National Gallery of Australia (NGA), Canberra, for Cartier: The Exhibition.

Melba was one of the high-profile clients of the famous French jewellery house, and the NGA exhibition will feature a Cartier diamond stomacher brooch owned by Melba, alongside the Grainger Museum portrait. The portrait was painted by Hungarian-born artist, Baron Arpad Paszthory (1867?-1946).

Paszthory spent some 10 years in Melbourne at the turn of the last century, setting himself up as a celebrity portraitist and painting official figures, such as the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and popular artists, such as actress and singer Nellie Stewart. It is not know exactly when Paszthory painted his grand depiction of Melba, although it is known that by 1904 it was hanging in the dress circle vestibule in the Princess Theatre, Melbourne. With her busy travel and performance schedule, it is likely that Melba had only a brief ‘sitting’ for Paszthory, and that the artist probably drew upon some of the many photographs that were taken of Melba in the period to complete the work. More

Image: Baron Arpad Paszthory, Madame Melba, c.1902-4, Grainger Museum, University of Melbourne