41 (Breeskin 128)
Reading "Le Figaro"
Alternate title(s): A Portrait; Lady Reading; Le Figaro; ?"Le Figaro" (Portrait of a Lady); Mrs. Cassatt; Mrs. Cassatt Reading "Le Figaro"; Mrs. R. S. Cassatt; Portrait; Portrait of a Lady; Portrait of Her Mother; Portrait of Mrs. C.; Portrait of the Artist's Mother; Portrait of the Artist's Mother, Mrs. Robert S. Cassatt [or B-27]; Reading Le Figaro; Reading Le Figaro (Portrait of a Lady); Ritratto di signora; The Artist's Mother Reading "Le Figaro"
c. 1877--78
Oil on canvas
39 3/4 x 32 in. (100.96 x 81.28 cm)
Inscribed lower right: Mary Cassatt
Private collection

provenance / ownership history
From the artist
to her brother Alexander J. Cassatt, Philadelphia, by December 13, 1878
to his wife, Lois Cassatt, Philadelphia, by descent, 1906
to Elsie Cassatt (Mrs. W. Plunkett) Stewart, daughter of Alexander and Lois Cassatt, 1920--1931
to Doris Stewart Wear (her daughter) and William Potter Wear
Katharine Stewart de Spoelberch, Philadelphia, sister of Doris Stewart Wear
Christie's, New York, May 17, 1983, #12, ill.
to private collection

exhibition history
1879 Pennsylvania Academy: #158, as Portrait of a Lady
1879 Soc American Artists NY: #99, as Portrait
1886 National Academy NY: #310, as Portrait of a Lady, lent by A. J. Cassatt, Esq.
1892 Soc American Artists NY: #40N or 41N, as Portrait, lent by A. J. Cassatt
1894 National Academy NY: #53, as Mrs. R. S. Cassatt, lent by A. J. Cassatt
1895 Copley Boston: #59, as Mrs. R. S. Cassatt, lent by A. J. Cassatt
1895 Durand-Ruel NY: #34, as Portrait of Mrs. C., lent by a private collection
1920b Pennsylvania Academy: #13, as Portrait of Her Mother, lent by Mrs. W. Plunkett Stewart
1927 Penn Museum: #26, as Portrait of the Artist's Mother, Mrs. Robert S. Cassatt [or B-27]
1939 Haverford PA: #5, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro," lent by Mrs. W. Potter Wear
1947 Wildenstein NY: #12, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro," lent by Mrs. William Potter Wear
1954 Chicago AIC: #11, as Portrait, lent by Mrs. Eric de Spoelberch, Haverford, Pa.
1955 Pennsylvania Academy: #114, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro," lent by Mrs. Eric de Spoelberch
1960 Phila Museum: no #, as Reading "Le Figaro," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Eric de Spoelberch
1962 Baltimore Museum: #107, as Reading "Le Figaro," lent by Mrs. Eric de Spoelberch
1965 Pennsylvania Academy: #21, as Reading "Le Figaro," lent by Mrs. Eric de Spoelberch
1970 National Gallery DC: #31, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro," lent anonymously
1972 Penn State: #19, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro," lent by anonymous collection
1978 MFA Boston: #14, as Mrs. Cassatt Reading "Le Figaro," lent anonymously
1985 Phila Museum: no # (in addendum), ill., as Reading "Le Figaro," lent by Private Asset Management Group, Inc., New York
1993 Nat Museum Am Art DC: no #, ill., as The Artist's Mother Reading "Le Figaro," lent by private collection, Washington, D.C.
1998--99 Chicago AIC: #10, ill., as Portrait of a Lady, lent by a Washington, D.C., private collection (Chicago, Washington)
2006--07 National Gallery London: #36, ill., as Reading Le Figaro (Portrait of a Lady), lent by private collection (Boston, New York)

published references
Atlantic Monthly 1879: p. 780, as "portrait of an elderly lady in starched muslin reading a sharply-creased newspaper"
Carter, S. 1879: p. 157, as "Miss Cassatt's portrait. . . . lady reading a newspaper"
Fuller-Walker 1879: p. 278, as "portrait of a woman in white, reading"
Nation 1879: p. 238, as Mrs. Cassatt
Newark Daily Advertiser 1879: p. 1, as "a lady dressed in white"
NY Daily Graphic 1879: p. 56, ill., as Portrait; p. 58, as "portrait of a lady"
NY Daily Tribune 1879a: p. 5, as "lady reading a newspaper"
NY Daily Tribune 1879b: p. 5, as Lady Reading
NY Evening Mail 1879: p. 1, as "middle aged lady in a white dress"
NY Times 1879a: p. 5, as "an old lady reading"
NY World 1879: p. 4, as "large portrait"
Van Rensselaer 1879: p. 149, as Portrait
Brownell 1881: p. 333, as "portrait"
Art Interchange 1886: p. 193, as "a portrait of an elderly lady in white, reading the 'Figaro'"
Critic 1886: p. 275, as "a middle aged lady in white, reading"
NY Herald 1886: p. 8, as "elderly lady in white"
NY Times 1886: p. 5, as A Portrait
Magazine of Art 1892b: p. vi, as "seated likeness of her mother"
NY Daily Tribune 1892: p. 7, as "the largest of her three portraits"
Brooklyn Eagle 1894: p. 22, as "treatment of two subjects"
NY Times 1894c: p. 8, as "Mrs. R. S. Cassatt, reading a newspaper"
NY Times 1894d: p. 8, as "portrait of Mrs. R. S. Cassatt"
NY Sun 1895: p. 7, as "Cassatt's mother"
NY Times 1895b: p. 4, as "portrait of Mrs. C."
Walker, S. 1895: p. 7, as "likeness of her mother"
Walton 1896: p. 354, as "portrait of Mrs. Cassatt"
Baur 1937: p. 8, as Portrait
Brinton 1939: n.p., ill., as Reading Le Figaro
Richter 1939: p. 9, as Reading Le Figaro
Reed 1947: p. 16, as Reading Le Figaro
Sweet 1954: pp. 5--6, as Reading "Le Figaro"
Werner 1960: p. 17, as Reading Le Figaro
Johnson, L. 1962: p. 14, as Reading Le Figaro
Kunstwerk 1962: p. 72, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro"
Vaughn 1962: p. 66, ill., as Reading Le Figaro
Monro and Monro 1964: p. 91, as Reading Le Figaro
Carson 1966: p. 42, ill.; p. 43, as Reading "Le Figaro"; p. 67, as A Portrait; p. 68, as "portrait of an elderly lady in white"
Newman 1966: p. 47, ill., as Reading Le Figaro
Sweet 1966: color pl. 5, ill., as Reading Le Figaro; p. 47, as Portrait of a Lady
Bullard 1972: pp. 16, 40; p. 41, color pl. 10, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro"
American Artist 1973a: cover; p. 3, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro"
Hale, N. 1975: frontispiece, ill.; pp. xix, 134, as Reading "Le Figaro"
Yeh 1976: p. 360, as Reading the Figaro
Munro 1979: p. 70, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro"
Roudebush 1979: p. 19, ill.; p. 53, as Reading "Le Figaro"
Gerdts 1980: p. 47, as Reading the Figaro
Love 1980: p. 65, as Reading "Le Figaro"
Pollock 1980: pp. 7, 22; p. 93, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro"
Teilman 1981: p. 96, as Reading "Le Figaro"
Rubinstein 1982: p. 134, as Reading the Figaro
Gerdts 1984: p. 28, ill.; p. 34, as Reading "Le Figaro"
Mathews 1984: p. 139, ill.; p. 197n1, as Reading "Le Figaro"; letters: Robert Cassatt to Alexander Cassatt, October 4, 1878, p. 138, as "your mothers portrait"; Robert Cassatt to Alexander Cassatt, December 13, 1878, p. 142, as "your mother's portrait"; Bertha Palmer to MC, December 15, 1892, as "a lady in white reading the Figaro"
Lindsay 1985: p. 20; p. 23, ill.; p 32n148, 33, 46, 90, 93, 94, 95n8; addendum, ill., as Reading Le Figaro
Garb 1986: p. 60; p. 61, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro"
Mathews 1987: p. 34, ill.; pp. 35, 40, 159, as Reading Le Figaro
Zellman 1987: p. 406 as Reading "Le Figaro"
Mathews and Shapiro 1989: p. 35; p. 37, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro"
Van Buren 1989: pp. 146, 201n86, as Reading LeFigaro [sic]
Chadwick 1990: p. 218, as Reading "Le Figaro"
Dillon 1990: pp. 279--81, as "1878 . . . Katharine [sic] . . . portrait"
Effeny 1991: pp. 15, 22, 56; p. 57, ill., as Reading Le Figaro
Munro 1991: p. 48, as Le Figaro
Pollock 1993: p. 213; p. 214, ill.; pp. 216--17, 220--21, 229, 231--33, 238 as Reading Le Figaro
Mathews 1994: p. 126; p. 127, ill.; pp. 128, 132, 176, as Reading Le Figaro
Constantino 1995: p. 9; p. 23, ill., as Reading Le Figaro
Gruitrooy 1996: p. 26, ill.; pp. 27, 38, 50, as Reading "Le Figaro"
Mathews 1996a: p. 28; p. 29, ill., as Reading Le Figaro
Nochlin 1997: p. 63, ill., as Mrs. Cassatt Reading "Le Figaro"
Kramer 1998: p. 29, ill., as Portrait of a Lady
Pollock 1998: pp. 10, 14, as Reading "Le Figaro"; p. 27, ill. in installation photograph of 1927 Penn Museum exhibition; p. 129, as "[fig.] 91" [margin note]; pp. 133--34; p. 135, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro"; p. 136, as "an image which shows one woman"; pp. 140, 210, as Reading "Le Figaro"
Shapiro 1998: p. 9, ill. (detail); pp. 41, 44, 77, as Portrait of a Lady
Shaw-Eagle 1999: p. D2, as Portrait of a Lady
Docherty 2001: p. 31, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro" (Portrait of a Lady)
Pollock 2002: p. 131, ill.; pp. 133, 139--40n11, 140n19, as The Artist's Mother Reading "Le Figaro"
Yoshihara 2003: p. 50, as Reading "Le Figaro"
Webster 2004: p. 11, as Reading Le Figaro
Broude 2005: pp. 262, 273, as The Artist's Mother Reading "Le Figaro"
MacAdam 2005a: p. 104, as Portrait of a Lady
Meyers 2005: p. 266, as Portrait of a Lady
Hirshler 2006: p. 80 as "cat. 36"; p. 81, ill., as Reading "Le Figaro" (Portrait of a Lady)
Nochlin 2006a: p. 270, ill.; pp. 271--73, as Reading Le Figaro

commentary

The first known reference to Reading "Le Figaro" appears in a July 1878 letter from the artist's mother, Katherine Cassatt, to her son Alexander. Mrs. Cassatt wrote:

Mary was very much pleased to hear that the children recognized the likeness and especially that little Elsie should have done so. She must be like Eddie who recognized a photograph of his Aunt Mary after five months absence and when he was only two years and a half old. I think you will like the picture as some people think it the best portrait as far as likeness and color goes they ever saw.[1]

This letter suggests that the artist had sent a photograph of the work to Alexander, to whom the painting itself would soon be shipped. Sweet believed that Reading "Le Figaro" dated to 1882 or after and thus matched this reference to MCCR #?, an earlier portrait of Mrs. Cassatt. In a letter of October 4, 1878, Robert Cassatt informed Alexander, "The portrait is now on the way to you, we sent it to the Red Star office on the 2D [instant] and it is to leave Antwerp for Switzerland on the 15th."[2] On December 13, 1878, Robert Cassatt wrote to Alexander, "Also do not forget to let me know what you had to pay on the importation of your mother's portrait,"[3] implying that it had already arrived in the United States.

In his October 4, 1878 letter from Paris, Robert Cassatt also noted that Reading "Le Figaro" "goes in a frame—Mame [Mary] had a very fine one, bought a bargain in Rome, in which the picture was exhibited here & which suited it admirably."[4] The work is not known to have been included in any exhibitions prior to 1879, but may have been displayed by a dealer such as Rosenquest[5] or Goupil, with whom Cassatt occasionally showed individual works in New York. Robert Cassatt continued, "I hope you will be pleased with the portrait. . . . Here there is but one opinion as to its excellence."[6]

PAI

[1] Katherine Cassatt to Alexander Cassatt, July 1878, in Frederick A. Sweet, Miss Mary Cassatt: Impressionist from Pennsylvania (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1966), p. 35. Sweet believed that Reading "Le Figaro" dated to 1882 or after and thus matched this reference to Miss Cassatt's Mother in a Lacy Blouse, an earlier portrait of Mrs. Cassatt.

[2] Robert Cassatt to Alexander Cassatt, Paris, October 4, 1878, in Cassatt and Her Circle: Selected Letters, ed. Nancy Mowll Mathews (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984), p. 138.

[3] Robert Cassatt to Alexander Cassatt, Paris, December 13, 1878, in Mathews 1984, p. 142.

[4] Robert Cassatt to Alexander Cassatt, Paris, October 4, 1878, in Mathews 1984, p. 138.

[5] Mary Cassatt and Philadelphia, ed. Suzanne G. Lindsay (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1985), exh. cat., n.p.

[6] Robert Cassatt to Alexander Cassatt, Paris, October 4, 1878, in Mathews 1984, p. 138 (emphasis in original).

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keywords:
 reading
 newspaper
 portrait
 mother
 sitting
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 white
 dress
 eyeglasses
 mirror
 looking left
 lady
 older
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