6 (Breeskin 15)
The Bacchante
Alternate title(s): Baccante; Bacchante; Die Bajadere; Hindu Dancing Girl (The Bajadere); The Bajadere (Hindu Dancing Girl); Young Woman in Costume, Dancing
Oil on canvas
24 1/2 x 20 in. (62.23 x 50.8 cm)
Inscribed lower left: Marÿ/Stevenson Cassatt/Parme 1872
Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia: Gift of John Frederick Lewis, 1932.13.1

provenance / ownership history
John W. Lockwood, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by 1877
private collection
to American Art Association, New York, January 28--29, 1926, #162, ill., as Die Bajadere
to J. Hamilton
John Frederick Lewis, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1932

exhibition history
1872 Belle Arti Milano: #368, as Baccante
1877 Pennsylvania Academy: #343, as The Bacchante, lent by J. W. Lockwood
1934 Pennsylvania Academy: #185, as Young Woman in Costume, Dancing
1991--92 Pennsylvania Academy: #4, ill., as Bacchante
1998--99 Chicago AIC: #1, ill., as Bacchante, lent by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (Chicago, Boston)

published references
Brewster 1872a: p. 2, as "Miss Cassatt's really beautiful Bacchante"
Art News 1926d: p. 10, as Die Bajadere
Sweet 1966: pp. 25--26, as Bacchante
Hale, N. 1975: p, 51, as The Bajadere or Bacchante
Getlein 1980: p. 12, ill., as The Bacchante
Pollock 1980: p. 74, ill., as The Bacchante
Mathews 1984: p. 101, ill., as Bacchante; letters: MC to Emily Sartain, May 25 [1872], p. 99, as "something for the Milan exhibition"; MC to Emily Sartain, June 2 [1872], pp. 101--02, as "my cymbals"
Lindsay 1985: p. 17, ill.; pp. 18, 19, 21, 31n123, 90, as Bacchante
Banta 1987: p. 399; p. 402, ill., as Bacchante
Mathews 1987: p. 8, ill.; p. 23, as Bacchante
Effeny 1991: p. 10, as Bacchante
Danly 1993: p. 154, ill., as Bacchante
Constantino 1995: p. 7, ill., as The Bacchante
Pollock 1998: p. 10, as Bacchante; pp. 96--97; p. 98, ill., as The Bacchante


Cassatt was likely discussing The Bacchante when she wrote to Emily Sartain from Parma on June 2, [1872], "I have begun again on my cymbals, changed the background &c it will do for a study."[1] Although Cassatt remained in Parma through September 1872, the painting must have been finished before late August because it was exhibited in Milan beginning the 26th of that month.

Cassatt's figure represents a follower of the Roman wine god, Bacchus, and is identifiable as such by the crown of grape leaves she wears in her hair and the cymbals she plays. Images of female bacchantes were popular among French academic artists, and in the late 1860s and early 1870s they were frequently depicted by artists associated with the Rococo revival of the period, the best known of these being Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. While bacchantes were often portrayed as participating in licentious activities (as was the case with the drunken dancers in Carpeaux's controversial decoration for the facade of Garnier's Opéra building in Paris, Génie couronnant la danse amoureuse et la danse bacchique, unveiled in 1869), Cassatt's bacchanalian and carnival figures were more attired and behaved.

In subject, The Bacchante is also similar to The Mandolin Player; both are intended to depict Italian peasants playing musical instruments. But whereas the earlier picture is fairly simple in pose, paint handling, and color scheme, The Bacchante is more complicated in all of these areas. In contrast to the young mandolin player, who appears to be daydreaming as much as she is making music, the bacchante with cymbals is actively engaged with her instrument. A greater sense of immediacy is created not only by the bacchante's more energetic motion and the closely cropped composition, but also by the pointing of her left elbow directly toward the viewer. While in Parma, Cassatt began to evince an interest in gestures involving pointed elbows, which were employed in Italy by the Mannerists in particular. Poses of this type persist in her oeuvre through the end of her Impressionist period.[2] In addition, the hand in The Bacchante, like those in Two Girls Throwing Flowers during Carnival, resembles the long, thin, and tapered digits common to figures by Correggio.

Like The Mandolin Player, The Bacchante is painted with a broad application of creamy pigment. The latter picture, however, exhibits more interest in capturing textures through brushwork and the use of highlights. There is an attempt to represent pleats or folds in the woman's blouse through vertical paint strokes, and touches of bright gold color create the effect of light bouncing off the metal necklace and the satiny fabric of her sleeves. The use of purple for the sash and necklace, unusual in Cassatt's work, and set in proximity to gold tones, results in a coloristic richness not known in her work until she began working in Spain a few months later.

While some scholars have read the inscription of location on The Bacchante as "Parma," upon closer inspection it appears to read "Parme," employing a French spelling for the name of the Italian city. However, her use of the umlaut or diaresis mark in "Marÿ" in The Bacchante, as in Two Girls Throwing Flowers during Carnival, appears to be more whimsical than based in any authentic orthographic rule.

The first known owner of The Bacchante, J. W. Lockwood, was a Philadelphia collector who lived at 1906 Walnut Street and was listed in the 1875 Gopsill's Philadelphia City Directory as being involved in a business of "inspectors."[3] John Frederick Lewis (1860–1932), who donated The Bacchante to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was a Philadelphia attorney who specialized in shipping issues. Lewis assembled an enormous collection of portrait images that was eventually dispersed among Philadelphia museums and libraries.


[1] MC to Emily Sartain, Parma, June 2, [1872], in Cassatt and Her Circle: Selected Letters, ed. Nancy Mowll Mathews (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984), pp. 101–02.

[2] For more information about Cassatt's pointed elbow poses, see Pamela A. Ivinski, "Mary Cassatt, the Maternal Body, and Modern Connoisseurship" (PhD diss., City University of New York, 2003), pp. 55–58.

[3] Suzanne Lindsay, Mary Cassatt and Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1985), exh. cat., p. 18.

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