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Amedeo Modigliani was born in 1884 into a distinguished Jewish family that included intellectuals, businessmen, teachers, and a politician, and grew up in the international port of Livorno, Italy on the Mediterranean Sea. In 1906 he moved to Paris, soon entering into the uninhibited bohemian spirit of the Parisian avant-garde, and by late 1908 or early 1909 had settled in the city’s bohemian Montparnasse quarter.
Modigliani lived there (with some interruptions) until his untimely death from tubercular meningitis—aged only 35—in 1920. He is best known for his portraits—of the literati and the wealthy, as well as members of the working class—in which he typically elongated the forms of his sitters and gave them mask-like faces. The great empathy Modigliani shows in his images of maids came out of a natural kinship: these working-class girls and the bohemian artists of Montparnasse, equally short of the comforts of life, were part of an “alternative” Paris, radically different from the world of the metropolitan bourgeoisie of the time.