11 (Breeskin 21)
Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla
Alternate title(s): A Seville Belle; A Spanish Lady; Espagnole Ă  l'Ă©ventail; Femme Ă  l'Ă©ventail, une mantille sur la tĂŞte; Girl with White Veil; L'espagnole a l'Ă©ventail; Spanish Dancer; Spanish Dancer in a Lace Mantilla; Spanish Lady; Woman with the Pink Veil
1873
Oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 19 3/4 in. (65.09 x 50.17 cm)
Inscribed lower left: (M.S.C.)/(S)eville./1873./Mary Cassatt [cropped at left]
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.: Gift of Victoria Dreyfus

provenance / ownership history
Mathilde Valet
to Collection de Mlle X sale, HĂ´tel Drouot, Paris, March 30, 1927, #57, as Femme Ă  l'Ă©ventail, une mantille sur la tĂŞte
to Gérard Frères, Paris
HĂ´tel Drouot, Paris, June 8, 1949, #71 bis, as Espagnole Ă  l'Ă©ventail
HĂ´tel Drouot, Paris, July 5, 1951, #106, as L'espagnole Ă  l'Ă©ventail
Collection LĂ©vy, Paris
Hugo Perls, New York
Parke-Bernet, New York, February 3, 1954, #76, ill., as Spanish Dancer
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, by 1965
Victoria (Mrs. Max) Dreyfus, Bronxville and Brewster, New York
to the National Museum of American Art, now the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., 1967

exhibition history
1873 Bailey: no catalogue located, as yet
1873 Cincinnati Expo: #160, as A Seville Belle
1876 De Sales: no # known
1965 Lowe FL: #8, as Spanish Dancer
1966 Hirschl & Adler NY: #33, as Spanish Dancer
1972 Birmingham Museum AL: #7, ill., as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla, lent by the National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution
1981 Isetan Japan: #4, ill., as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla
1998--99 Chicago AIC: #4, ill., as A Seville Belle, lent by the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution (Chicago, Boston)

published references
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin 1873b: n.p., as "Spanish lady"
Philadelphia Telegraph 1873: p. 5, as "Seville lady"
Benjamin, S. 1879: p. 495, ill., as A Spanish Lady
Benjamin, S. 1880b: p. 208, ill., as A Spanish Lady
Figaro artistique 1927: p. 459, as Femme Ă  l'Ă©ventail, un mantille sur la tĂŞte
Monro and Monro 1948: p. 126, as Spanish Lady
Hirschl & Adler 1962: p. 9, ill., as Spanish Dancer
Sweet 1966: p. 38, as Woman with the Pink Veil
Mathews 1984: letters: Katherine Cassatt to Emily Sartain, July 4 [1873], pp. 122-23, as "girl with white veil"; Katherine Cassatt to Alexander Cassatt, November 22 [1878], p. 141, as "'Woman with the pink veil'"
Lindsay 1985: pp. 18, 23, 31n132, 90, as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla
Mathews 1987: p. 19, ill.; p. 25, as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla
Conrads 1990: p. 28, ill., as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla
Fink 1990: p. 148, ill.; p. 197, as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla
Gerdts and Dearinger 1992: p. 84, as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla
Mathews 1994: p. 83; p. 84, ill., as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla
Constantino 1995: p. 8, as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla
Gruitrooy 1996: p. 16, ill.; p. 17, as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla
Boone 1998: p. 54, as Spanish Dancer in a Lace Mantilla
Pollock 1998: p. 106, ill.; p. 108, as Spanish Dancer in a Lace Mantilla
Webster 2004: p. 34n21, as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla
Boone 2007: p. 110, as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla; p. 111, as Spanish Dancer; p. 112, ill., as Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla; p. 113

commentary

Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla, though not as interesting compositionally or coloristically as many of Cassatt's other Spanish pictures, is nevertheless fascinating for what it reveals about the evolution of Cassatt's brushwork. While the artist gained widespread fame beginning in the late 1870s for her Impressionist works with their rejection of the smooth and slick paint surfaces favored by the conservative, academic artists of France, Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla supplies strong evidence that Cassatt had abandoned traditional techniques some years before coming into direct contact with the burgeoning modernist movement.

Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla displays the same technique for painting flesh that Cassatt used in other of her Spanish pictures, but the small dabs of pigment are employed to more daring effect here. Dark shadows around the eyes, chin, and side of the face shape a convincingly rounded visage, yet unblended highlights—including a small pat of bright paint at the tip of the nose—show that Cassatt was not concerned to emulate the "licked" surfaces common to academic paintings of the period. That the artist did not intend the work as a mere sketch but rather saw it as a completed painting is confirmed by her sending it to be exhibited in the United States in 1873. Indeed, when the painting was shown alongside On the Balcony during the Carnival at Bailey & Co. in June 1873, the critic for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin stated:

The painting of the flesh, especially of the darker figures, is very different from what we are accustomed to. In the bright light where the pictures are now to be seen, every touch of the brush is ruthlessly exposed, and the broad, free, dashing use of the colors is so different from the miniature style of flesh painting which is usually aimed at, that ignorant people are apt to wonder and pretend to find fault. But the effect is singularly fine when the proper distance is obtained.[1]

Even more effective than the flesh painting in Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla is the "bravura" handling of the lace veil. With bold, sketchy strokes, Cassatt successfully conveys the transparency of this most delicate of textiles. Though the work is still quite dark in tone, Cassatt's paint handling points directly toward the Impressionist facture for which she would receive so much attention in the 1880s.

Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla was signed twice by the artist. The first and fairly precise inscription, giving details as to the location and date—"M.S.C./Seville./1873."—was probably added at the moment of completion, between January and late April 1873 when Cassatt traveled back to Paris and then on to the Low Countries. The second and very loosely brushed signature, which reads "Mary Cassatt," was likely placed on the work near the end of the artist's life, after she had begun to lose her eyesight. Generally, Cassatt affixed a signature of this type to a work only at the moment she was giving it away or selling it. In the case of Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla, which was included in the 1927 auction of works owned by Mathilde Valet (Cassatt's long-time maid and primary companion late in life), the second signature may indicate this transfer of ownership.

In the provenance above, the names "Collection Lévy, Paris" and "Hugo Perls, New York" are taken from the 1954 Parke-Bernet sale catalogue, where they appear for the first time. It is not known precisely when these two owners fit into the sequence. Perls (1886–1977) was an art dealer and a Plato scholar who moved his gallery from Berlin to Paris in 1931 and then to New York in 1941.

Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla and On the Balcony during the Carnival are the earliest recorded works by Cassatt to be shown in Philadelphia, when in June 1873 they were exhibited in the window of the jewelry store Bailey & Co. Katherine Cassatt wrote to Emily Sartain of these two pictures, "Her Balcony & girl with white veil are now there—and no end of articles in the newspapers about them—some very funny you will think if you see them—Unfortunately the weather being so hot the right sort of people are out of town—so the chances for selling I am afraid are small."[2] (Note that Katherine Cassatt describes the picture in the 1878 letter quoted below as "Woman with the pink veil," while in this 1873 letter she calls it "girl with white veil." In fact, the veil contains notes of both pink and white.)

Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla can be identified as one of the works handled by Hermann Teubner, an agent for Cassatt, in the late 1870s. (For more on Teubner, see the entry for Torero and Young Girl.) According to Suzanne Lindsay, the Loan Register of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts lists a work described as "Spanish Lady (half-length), with fan" as having been deposited by Teubner at the museum from August 17, 1878 to January 7, 1879, with a price of $125.[3] The dimensions and signature recorded in the register match those of Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla. Katherine Cassatt was likely discussing this picture (as "Woman with the pink veil") in relation to Teubner when she wrote to Alexander Cassatt, November 22, [1878]:

[Mary] wants all her smaller pictures sold at auction either in New York or Phila two or three at a time at every important sale that may take place until they are all sold—the three or four large ones—the "Musical Party" the "Torero & girl" the "Theater" & the "Woman with the pink veil" she says are good enough to bring higher prices & if Teübner cant or wont sell them—she will make arrangements to send them to somebody else.[4]

However, no auctions offering Cassatt paintings at this early date have yet been discovered, and Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla made its way back to France, where it remained with the artist until she gave it to Mathilde Valet. An engraving after the work, published in the March 1879 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine, is the earliest known illustration of Cassatt's work in an American periodical discovered to date.

Victoria Dreyfus (1881–1976), who donated Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, was the wife of Max Dreyfus (1874–1964), who with his brother Louis Dreyfus (1877–1967) published the music of most of the Broadway composers of their era, including Jerome Kern and George Gershwin.

PAI

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

[2] Katherine Cassatt to Emily Sartain, Antwerp, July 4, [1873], in Cassatt and Her Circle: Selected Letters, ed. Nancy Mowll Mathews (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984), pp. 122–23.

[3] Suzanne G. Lindsay, Mary Cassatt and Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1985), exh. cat., p. 31n132.

[4] Katherine Cassatt to Alexander Cassatt, [Paris], November 22, [1878], in Mathews 1984, p. 141.

Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla may be the first work by the artist to be illustrated in an American periodical. S. G. W. Benjamin, "Present Tendencies of American Art," Harper's New Monthly Magazine (March 1879), pp. 482–96.

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