10 (Breeskin 18)
On the Balcony during the Carnival
Alternate title(s): A Balcony at Seville; A Balcony in Seville; A Spanish Scene---In Old Seville; Au balcon pendant le carnaval (On the Balcony); Balcony; Balcony in Seville; Before the Carnival; Carnival Scene; During the Carnival; On the Balcony; On the Balcony, during a Carnival; On the Balcony, during Carnival; On the Balcony during the Carnival; Pendant le carnaval; Scène espagnole; Scène espagnole, Seville; Spanish Scene; The Flirtation: A Balcony in Seville
1873
Oil on canvas
39 3/4 x 21 1/2 in. (100.96 x 54.61 cm)
Inscribed lower left: M.S.C./Seville/1873
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of John G. Johnson for the W. P. Wilstach Collection, 1906

provenance / ownership history
John G. Johnson, Philadelphia, by 1880
to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, for the W. P. Wilstach Collection, 1906

exhibition history
1873 Bailey: no catalogue located, as yet
1873 Cincinnati Expo: #184, as The Flirtation: A Balcony in Seville
1874 National Academy NY: #286, as A Balcony at Seville
1876 De Sales: no # known
1895 Durand-Ruel NY: #22, as Scène espagnole, lent by a private collection
1927 Penn Museum: #22, as On the Balcony
1953 Phila Museum: #49, as On the Balcony
1954 Chicago AIC: #2, ill., as The Flirtation: A Balcony in Seville
1960 Phila Museum: no #, as On the Balcony
1985 Phila Museum: #1, ill., as On the Balcony
1986--87 Cummer FL: #5, ill., as On the Balcony, during a Carnival, lent by the Philadelphia Museum of Art
1995 Isetan Japan: #38, ill., as Au balcon pendant le carnaval (On the Balcony), lent by the Philadelphia Museum of Art
1998--99 Chicago AIC: #3, ill., as The Flirtation: A Balcony in Seville, lent by the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Chicago, Boston, Washington)
2003 Met Museum NY: #200, ill., as On the Balcony

published references
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin 1873b: n.p., as A Balcony in Seville
Philadelphia Telegraph 1873: p. 5, as "two women and a cavalier on a balcony"
Nation 1874: p. 321, as "one of these balcony-groups"
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin 1874b: p. 2, as "superb Spanish scenes"
Marks 1895b: p. 158, as Scène espagnole, Seville
NY Daily Tribune 1895: p. 25, as Scène espagnole
NY Sun 1895: p. 7, as Scène espagnole
NY Times 1895b: p. 4, as "Spanish scene, (No. 22)"
Walker, S. 1895: p. 7, as Spanish Scene
Brooklyn Eagle 1896: p. 21, as "her Spanish scene"
Revue encyclopédique 1896: p. 852, as Scène espagnole
Walton 1896: p. 354; p. 355, ill., as A Spanish Scene---In Old Seville
Boston Globe 1907: p. 45, as one of the "new pictures" added to the "Wilstach collection of paintings"
Cary 1908: p. xxxi, as "an early example of Miss Mary Cassatt's work"; p. xxxvii, ill., as On the Balcony
NY Times 1908a: p. X6, as "a fine example of her very early work"
Cary 1909: between pp. 32--33, ill., as On the Balcony
Wilstach 1922: p. 23, as On the Balcony
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin 1924: p. 3, as On the Balcony
Art News 1926h: p. 6, as "two women at a carnival throwing confetti"
NY Herald Tribune 1926: p. 15, as On the Balcony
Art and Archaeology 1927: p. 283, ill., as On the Balcony
Art News 1927b: p. 2, as On the Balcony
Grafly 1927a: p. 9, as On the Balcony
Grafly 1927b: p. 309, ill., as On the Balcony
Mather 1927: p. 146, ill., as On the Balcony
Ziegler 1927: p. 3, ill., as On the Balcony
Brinton 1939: n.p., as On the Balcony
Monro and Monro 1948: p. 126, as On the Balcony
Art Digest 1954: p. 24, as On the Balcony
Hyslop 1954: p. 181, as Carnival Scene
Sweet 1954: p. 5, as Pendant le carnaval
Monro and Monro 1964: p. 91, as On the Balcony
Carson 1966: p. 9, as On the Balcony
Newman 1966: p. 43, ill., as On the Balcony
Sweet 1966: p. 26, as Pendant le carnaval; p. 31, as A Balcony at Seville
Smith, A. 1970: n.p., as On the Balcony during the Carnival
Bullard 1972: p. 12, as Before the Carnival
Hale, N. 1975: p. 52, as On the Balcony; p. 55, as Balcony in Seville
Munro 1979: pp. 64--65, as "head of a male, drowned in shadow"
Roudebush 1979: pp. 8, 91, as Pendant le carnaval
Love 1980: p. 10; pl. 2, ill., as On the Balcony during the Carnival
Pollock 1980: pp. 9, 22, 28; p. 33, ill.; p. 65, as On the Balcony during the Carnival
Stevens 1980: pp. 27--28, as On the Balcony
Teilman 1981: pp. 89, 101n3, as On the Balcony during the Carnival
Mathews 1984: p. 115, ill., as On the Balcony; letters: MC to Emily Sartain, New Year's Evening [January 1], 1873, p. 114, as "three figures life size half way to the knee"; Katherine Cassatt to Emily Sartain, July 4 [1873], pp. 122--23, as "Balcony"
Lindsay 1985: pp. 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 34; p. 36, ill.; pp. 36--38, 90, 94, 95n1, as On the Balcony
Gregory and Lyon 1987: p. 56, ill., as On the Balcony during the Carnival
Mathews 1987: p. 18, ill.; p. 25, as On the Balcony
Conrads 1990: p. 28, ill., as On the Balcony
Gerdts 1990: p. 26, as On the Balcony during the Carnival
Effeny 1991: pp. 11, 46; p. 47, ill., as On the Balcony
Wiser 1991: p. 44, as "balcony scene"
Philadelphia Museum 1994: p. 265, ill., as On the Balcony
Boone 1995: p. 54, ill., as On the Balcony (detail)
Constantino 1995: p. 8; p. 16, ill., as On the Balcony, during Carnival
Gruitrooy 1996: p. 11, ill., as On the Balcony, during Carnival
Boone 1998: p. 54, as On the Balcony
Pollock 1998: pp. 10, 101--02; p. 103, ill.; p. 104, as On the Balcony
Roldán 2003: p. 396, as On the Balcony
Weinberg 2003: p. 282; p. 283, ill., as On the Balcony
Webster 2004: p. 18, as On the Balcony
Meyers 2005: p. 252, as On the Balcony
Boone 2007: p. 94; p. 95, ill.; pp. 99, 101, 102--03, 237n46, as On the Balcony

commentary

On the Balcony during the Carnival is likely to be the picture discussed by Cassatt in a letter to Emily Sartain, December 31, 1872: "My present effort is on a canvass of thirty and is three figures life size half way to the knee—All the three heads are foreshortened and difficult to pose, so much so that the model asked me if the people who pose for me live long. I have one man's figure the first time I have introduced a mans head into any of my pictures."[1] As suggested in this letter, the artist set out to conquer a number of new challenges when painting On the Balcony during the Carnival, attempting her most complex work since the Two Girls Throwing Flowers during Carnival from early 1872. Cassatt's success with the completed image provides evidence of the enormous growth of her confidence and skill during her stay in Spain.

In terms of theme, On the Balcony during the Carnival is related to the scenes of revelry from her Parma period. In those earlier pictures, the erotic or even licentious aspects associated with carnival or bacchanal were mostly repressed. However, in On the Balcony during the Carnival, and in another Spanish picture, Torero and Young Girl, Cassatt explored adult amorousness for the first—and only—time in her career. The composition of On the Balcony during the Carnival, which uses a door and balcony railing to frame its figure, derives from a number of sources including Spanish masterpieces such as those by Francisco de Goya and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo and modern French paintings like Manet's The Balcony, 1868–69 (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), as well as popular illustrations that exploited the reputation of the balcony as a site for romantic and sometimes indecorous behavior.

Nonetheless, for Cassatt, On the Balcony during the Carnival was not so much an opportunity to investigate the passions as it was a chance to venture into new artistic territory. In addition to its being her largest picture to date, the work represents a more sophisticated experiment with the properties of light and shade. Though a good deal of the composition is dark, the embroidered shawl, which is enlivened with a number of bright colors, introduces a large central area of light into the picture. The man standing behind the woman in the shawl, in contrast, is almost completely lost in shadow, save for the fingers of his left hand. Moreover, in this and other pictures she created in Spain, Cassatt showed a fascination for textures, from the crisp petals of the carnation and the hard metal of the brass finial to the fringe of the shawl, which is indicated by nothing more than a few long lines of dry paint pulled across the painting's surface.

Pose, gesture, and the shape of hands were also important to Cassatt in On the Balcony during the Carnival. Upon viewing the work in Philadelphia in June 1873, a critic for the Philadelphia Daily Evening Telegraph observed the artist's progress in arranging her figures, reporting:

These pictures are superior to anything of Miss Cassatt's we have yet seen, not only in their technicalities, which show that the artist has made a marked advance in the mere mechanism of her art, but in their intense vitality. There is an ease, an unconstraint in the attitudes of the figures, a careless grace that an artist can never put upon canvas unless the eye and hand are so perfectly trained as to be able to seize nature in motion, and to indicate motion by arrested action.[2]

As for gestures and hands, Cassatt declared in the 1872 letter quoted above, "constantly the thought of Correggio's pictures returns to my mind and I am thankful for my six months study in Parma. In all of Velasquez pictures I can think of no beautiful hand, no! not one. Murillo's hands of the St Elizabeth are exquisite but even in that picture there is a boy scratching his head in the most grotesque manner."[3] The two female hands aligned at the center of Cassatt's composition are shaped with special skill, and when the picture was exhibited in Philadelphia in 1873, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin critic proclaimed that the woman in the picture handled her fan "in the true Spanish style."[4] Even more interesting than the two women's gestures is the man's left hand, which adds a trompe-l'oeil flourish to the image by emerging from the darkness to rest against the building's facade.

The first known owner of On the Balcony during the Carnival was John G. Johnson (1841–1917), a leading figure in turn-of-the-century American law, who turned down offers by three presidents to serve as the Attorney General and a Supreme Court judge in favor of his own practice in Philadelphia. Cassatt appears to have known Johnson personally, as he served her brother Alexander both as a corporate and later as a personal attorney. Suzanne Lindsay, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's 1985 exhibition catalogue, Mary Cassatt and Philadelphia, states that Johnson owned On the Balcony during the Carnival as early as 1880 because it appears in a photograph of Johnson's Philadelphia house dated to that year.[5]

As Lindsay also points out, On the Balcony during the Carnival and Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla are the earliest recorded works by Cassatt to be shown in Philadelphia, when they were exhibited by the jeweler Bailey & Co. in June 1873.[6] However, given the familiarity with her earlier works claimed by the Philadelphia Daily Evening Telegraph critic quoted above, this was possibly not the first time her work was on view in that city.

PAI

[1] MC to Emily Sartain, Seville, New Year's Evening, 1873, in Cassatt and Her Circle: Selected Letters, ed. Nancy Mowll Mathews (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984), p. 114. Cassatt dated this letter "New Year's Evening, 1873," which presumably means that it was actually written on the last day of 1872 because she spent the winter of 1872–73 in Spain, but the winter of 1873–74 in Rome.

[2] "The Fine Arts," Philadelphia Daily Evening Telegraph, June 16, 1873, p. 5.

[3] In Mathews 1984, p. 114. The Murillo to which Cassatt refers is St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Church of the Hospital de la Caridad, Seville.

[4] "The Fine Arts: Pictures by Miss M. S. Cassatt," Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, June 17, 1873.

[5] Suzanne G. Lindsay, Mary Cassatt and Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1985), exh. cat., p. 37.

[6] Lindsay, p. 37.

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keywords:
 man
 balcony
 carnival
 smiling
 red
 mantilla
 shawl
 white
 Spanish
 red
 flower
 costume
 window
 sombrero
 pink
 necklace
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