A model known only as Rafaela was the inspirition for Tamara de Lempicka's famous painting, "La Bella Rafaela" (1927) and a muse for the painter for at least a year.
In the mid- to late 1920s, Tamara de Lempicka had taken to finding inspiration by walking around famous Paris park Bois de Boulogne or sitting at outdoor cafes where she would sketch people around her.
"Suddenly," de Lempicka recalled, "I became aware of a woman walking some distance in front of me. As she walks, everyone coming in the opposite direction stops and looks at her. They turn their heads as they passes by. I am curious. What is so extraordinary that they are doing this? I walk very quickly until I pass her, then I turn around and come back down the path in the opposite direction.
"Then I see why everyone stops. She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen—huge black eyes, beautiful sensuous mouth, beautiful body. I stop her and say to her, 'Madmoiselle I'm a painter and I would like you to come pose for me. Would you do this?' She says, 'Yes, why not?'"
The beauty's name was Rafaela. The next day Rafaela showed up at de Lempicka's studio to posed for what became one of the artist's most highly praised works, "La Bella Rafaela."
Etude pour La belle Rafaela (Study for The Beautiful Rafaela)
Of the sitting period Tamara said: "There was a boy who lived in the same building and whose apartment windows were opposite the windows of my studio. He watched me paint her every day, and she knew it. He fell in love with her through the window. Finally she married him, and I Iost my model."
The London Sunday Times Magazine called "La Bella Rafaela" "one of the most remarkable nudes of the century." The reason surely lies partly in de Lempicka's ability to capture her desire for her subject. The desire is palpable.
Rafaela sat for Tamara de Lempicka for at least three more nudes over the next year.
Rafaela admitted to her, "When I am alone at night, I get crazy. I go out into the street and look for men. I cannot live without a man."
Also believed to be Raphaela:
The Pink Tunic
Reclining Nude with Book