7 (Breeskin 16)
Early Portrait
Alternate title(s): A Mandolin Player; Early Portrait; Portrait (Early Portrait); Portrait of a Woman; Portrait of the Artist; Self Portrait
Oil on canvas
23 1/4 x 19 3/4 in. (59.06 x 50.17 cm)
Inscribed lower left: Mary Stevenson Cassatt./à mon ami C. Raimondi
The Dayton Art Institute: Gift of Mr. Robert Badenhop, 1955.67

provenance / ownership history
From the artist
to Carlo Raimondi, Parma, 1872
to Raimondi family
to Dr. Edward Bertolini, Chicago
to Parke-Bernet, New York, May 23, 1951, #72, ill., as Portrait of the Artist
consigned to Parke-Bernet, New York, November 17, 1954, #80, ill., as Portrait of the Artist
Robert Badenhop, New Jersey
to the Dayton Art Institute, 1955

exhibition history
1965 Pennsylvania Academy: #14, as Self Portrait, lent by the Dayton Art Institute
1981 Isetan Japan: #2, ill., as Early Portrait
1995 Isetan Japan: #37, ill., as Portrait (Early Portrait), lent by the Dayton Art Institute
1999--2000 Baltimore Museum: #7, ill., as Portrait of a Woman, lent by the Dayton Art Institute
2003--04 Dayton OH: no #, as Portrait of a Woman

published references
Sweet 1966: p. 25, as "portrait of a peasant woman"
Hale, N. 1975: p. 51, as "painting"
Breeskin 1979: p. 12, as "an early portrait"
Pollock 1980: p. 75, ill., as Early Portrait
Mathews 1987: p. 14; p. 15, ill.; p. 23, as Portrait of a Woman
Constantino 1995: p. 9, ill., as Portrait of a Woman
Hills 1997: p. 40, as A Mandolin Player
Pollock 1998: p. 90, ill., as Portrait of a Woman; p. 96, as "a very academic figure study"


A letter Cassatt wrote to Emily Sartain on June 2, [1872], may discuss this work: "I have begun again on my cymbals [The Bacchante] . . . and then I am going to have the lame girl, she has a splendid head like a Roman."[1] The compositional type, use of drapery, and a hardness in the woman's features in Early Portrait may indicate that Cassatt was inspired by sculpted portrait busts from the ancient Roman and Renaissance periods when conceiving this picture.[2]

Cassatt inscribed Early Portrait with a dedication to the engraver Carlo Raimondi (1809–1883). According to letters written by Emily Sartain, Raimondi assisted Cassatt in finding free studio space at the Accademia di Belle Arti and treated her in a very kind and deferential manner during her first stay in Parma, in 1872. However, when Cassatt returned to that city in the fall of 1873, she reported in a letter to Sartain dated November 26, "My visit to Parma was a disappointment in many respects, Raimondi behaved in the strangest way, but I cannot write you about [it] I will keep it until we meet."[3]

The signature type employed on Early Portrait—"Mary Stevenson Cassatt"—also suggests that the work was done during the later months of the artist's first visit to Parma (June–September). Through signature types, a likely chronology of the Parma pictures can be established. Two Girls Throwing Flowers during Carnival still employs the pseudonym "Marÿ Stevenson." The Bacchante continues to use the "ÿ" in "Marÿ" but also adds "Cassatt." Early Portrait, the final image in this sequence, retains the full "Mary Stevenson Cassatt" of The Bacchante, but drops the "ÿ" found in the signature of Two Girls Throwing Flowers during Carnival.

Cassatt's use of French for the dedication inscribed on Early Portrait—"à mon ami C. Raimondi"—as with her French spelling of Parma on The Bacchante, may have been intended to assert that her primary artistic identification remained with France, where she hoped to achieve success by exhibiting in the state-sponsored Salon exhibitions, even while she was studying and painting in Italy.


[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] Critics would later link some of Cassatt's Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, including In the Box, The Quiet Time, and The Child's Caress, with fifteenth-century Florentine portrait busts and bas reliefs, such as those by Luca della Robbia and Desiderio da Settignano. For more on this topic, see Judith Barter, "Mary Cassatt: Themes, Sources, and the Modern Woman," in Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman, ed. Judith Barter et al. (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1998), pp. 77–80; and Pamela Ivinski, "Mary Cassatt, the Maternal Body, and Modern Connoisseurship" (PhD diss., City University of New York, 2003), pp. 314–17.

[3] MC to Emily Sartain, [Rome], November 26, [1873], in Mathews 1984, p. 123.

Maker unknown. Roman, A.D. 150–160, marble. The Getty Collection: 83.AA.44.

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