18 (Breeskin 19)
Roman Girl
Alternate title(s): ?Mandolin Player; ?The Mandolin Player
c. 1873--74
Oil on canvas
27 3/4 x 23 in. (70.49 x 58.42 cm)
Inscribed lower left: M.S. Cassatt
Private collection

provenance / ownership history
Private collection, New York
consigned to Parke-Bernet, New York, April 17--18, 1951, #289
Hammer Galleries, New York
to Gulf American Galleries, Miami, 1964
to Bernard Danenberg Galleries, New York, by 1968
Andrew Crispo, New York, by 1967
to Maxwell Galleries, San Francisco, 1968
Sotheby's, London, July 1, 1970, #15, ill.
Sotheby's, New York, April 19--20, 1972, #56, ill.
to Irvin Brenner Galleries, New York
to J. Karel P. van Stuijvenberg, Caracas, Venezuela, by 1977
GĂ©rard Lases, Paris, by 1999
did not sell when consigned by Lases to Christie's, New York, May 26, 1999, #34, ill.
private collection

exhibition history
1879 Pennsylvania Academy: #190, if this is the work shown as Mandolin Player
1879 Soc American Artists NY: #136, if this is the work shown as The Mandolin Player

published references
Carter, S. 1879: p. 157, if this is the work shown at the 1879 Society of American Artists exhibition as The Mandolin Player
NY Evening Mail 1879: p. 1, as "half length of a Spanish lady," if this work was shown in the 1879 Society of American Artists exhibition
NY Times 1879a: p. 5, if this is the work shown at the 1879 Society of American Artists exhibition as The Mandolin Player
Baur 1937: p. 8, as Mandolin Player
Sweet 1966: pp. 47, 48, if this is work shown as Mandolin Player and The Mandolin Player in 1879
Hale, N. 1975: p. 52, as Roman Girl; p. 94, as Mandolin Player
Lindsay 1985: pp. 33, 90, if this is the work exhibited in 1879 as Mandolin Player


Like Roman Girl Smiling, Roman Girl is signed "M. S. Cassatt," without a date or location. The artist employed this signature type from mid-1873 through 1877, and Roman Girl probably dates to late October 1873 through early 1874, given its facture, palette, and Italianate subject matter. Cassatt painted mandolin players in a number of works from her early career, including The Mandolin Player, 1868, and Young Woman with a Mandolin, 1876. The present work, Roman Girl, resembles more closely the earlier picture in its aims as a genre painting, rather than the later image, which is more self-consciously a "costume" picture and was created at a time when the artist was seeking to establish herself as a portraitist. The palette of Roman Girl, with its predominance of pink hues, and the loose, patchy paint handling are also more in keeping with pictures like Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla of 1873 than with works of about 1876 like Young Woman with a Mandolin, which feature more acidic tones and a tighter facture. In dress and subject, Roman Girl also relates to A Musical Party, which was painted in Rome in early 1874.

The relatively light background of Roman Girl is unusual among Cassatt's early works, which more often exhibit figures placed within the dark settings preferred by academic artists. The pink background was clearly painted over a red tone resembling the background tone found behind the figure in Roman Girl Smiling.

A painting by Cassatt titled Mandolin Player and The Mandolin Player was shown at the Society of American Artists in New York in March 1879 and then at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in late April and May 1879. Scholars have long posited this work to have been The Mandolin Player. However, the more recent discovery of a contemporary review throws this identification into question. A New York Times review of the Society of American Artists exhibition states of the two works on view, The Mandolin Player and Reading "Le Figaro", "Her two portraits, painted in very light keys, are certainly bold and vigorous work."[1] The Mandolin Player, being dark in tone, thus seems less likely to have been the picture in question, while Roman Girl seems quite possible. It is interesting to note that the first published appearance of Roman Girl, in the Parke-Bernet catalogue of 1951, lists the following: "Exhibited at the Society of American Artists, New York/Exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of [the] Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1879." This information may have been derived from labels on the back of the work that are no longer extant.

In the catalogue for the 1879 Society of American Arists exhibition, The Mandolin Player, now thought to be Roman Girl, is listed as being offered for sale by the artist, and is likely one of the works handled by Teubner and Mitchell at this time.[2] For more information on Teubner and Mitchell, see the entry for Torero and Young Girl.


[1] "American Art Methods," New York Times, March 10, 1879, p. 5.

[2] Frederick A. Sweet described The Mandolin Player as having been lent to the 1879 Society of American Artists exhibition by G. H. Sherwood. Sweet apparently misread the exhibition catalogue which lists J. H. Sherwood as the owner of A. H. Wyant's An October Day. Frederick A. Sweet, Miss Mary Cassatt: Impressionist from Pennsylvania (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1966), p. 48.


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