24 (Breeskin 14)
Smiling Young Woman in a Hat with Turned Up Brim
Alternate title(s): Head of a Smiling Girl; Head of Smiling Girl; Portrait of a Girl
1874 or 1875
Oil on canvas
21 3/8 x 18 3/4 in. (54.29 x 47.63 cm)
Inscribed lower left: M. S. Cassatt/Paris/187[4] or 187[5]
Gerald Peters Gallery, New York City

provenance / ownership history
J. Gardner Cassatt
consigned by his estate to Samuel T. Freeman & Co., February 26, 1931, #153, ill., as Head of a Smiling Girl
to Baruch Feldman, Renaissance Galleries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Plaza Art Galleries, New York, October 7, 1932, #231, as Portrait of a Girl
Leslie Waggener Jr., Dallas, Texas, possibly purchased from aforementioned Plaza Art Galleries sale
by descent in family
Gerald Peters Gallery, New York

exhibition history
no known exhibitions

published references
Art News 1931a: p. 19, as Head of Smiling Girl


The first known reference to this work, the 1931 Freeman auction catalogue, and all subsequent references (likely derived from the Freeman catalogue and not from examination of the picture itself) note that Smiling Young Woman in a Hat with Turned Up Brim is inscribed "M. S. Cassatt/Paris/1872." However, during a more recent examination of the work itself, it was difficult to decipher the final digit of the date; it seems possibly to be a "4." In addition, the signature type, "M. S. Cassatt," is not known to have been used before about April 1873. Furthermore, for stylistic reasons Smiling Young Woman in a Hat with Turned Up Brim does not appear to have been created before 1874. The work is far more painterly than any of the 1872 pictures, down to the dab of impasto on the end of the woman's nose. When compared to a specific work of that year with a similar composition and color scheme, Early Portrait, the difference in the brushwork is clear. In Early Portrait, Cassatt's careful efforts to model the figure using traditional academic methods are obvious. Smiling Young Woman in a Hat with Turned Up Brim, in contrast, displays a much looser and relaxed application of paint, adapted from the techniques of Old Masters she studied after leaving Italy in 1872: Velázquez, Murillo, Hals, Rubens, and Van Dyck in particular. In general, Smiling Young Woman in a Hat with Turned Up Brim is characterized by the confident brushstroke, lush application of pigment, and rich palette that Cassatt did not develop until her sojourn to Spain in the winter of 1872–73.

While Cassatt spent only short periods of time in Paris in 1873, she lived there from the winter of 1874 through the spring of 1875. Smiling Young Woman in a Hat with Turned Up Brim seems more likely to have been created during the latter period because the subject relates more closely to her Parisian and American works of 1875 than to those of earlier phases of her career. The painting differs from most of her previous pictures in that it is one of the first images in her oeuvre depicting a model who is intended to represent neither a genre figure depicted in traditional garb nor an identifiable portrait subject.[1] The woman's dress has an air of being both fashionable and historical, with its lace collar reminiscent of the ruffs in seventeenth-century Netherlandish paintings, and in this aspect the work is aligned with Cassatt's portraits of 1875, which were painted in a historicizing mode. See, for example, Portrait of Isaac George Waterman, in which the sitter wears a ruff.

Although the 1931 Freeman auction catalogue describes Smiling Young Woman in a Hat with Turned Up Brim as having been exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, no records of any formal PAFA exhibitions including this work have been located to date.


[1] During her early career, Cassatt generally inscribed her portraits with the sitter's name. Smiling Young Woman in a Hat with Turned Up Brim bears a complex inscription but does not include any identification of the sitter.

« previous entry  |  next entry »
go to entry number: 
MCCR  |  Breeskin
 looking forward
© 2018 Adelson Galleries, New York. All rights reserved