32 (Breeskin 47)
Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading
Alternate title(s): La lecture; Mrs. Duffee; Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa; Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa Reading; Woman Reading; Young Girl Reading; Young Woman Reading; Young Woman Reading (Woman Reading)
1876
Oil on panel
13 3/4 x 10 1/2 in. (34.92 x 26.67 cm)
Inscribed upper left: M.S. Cassatt./Paris/1876
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Bequest of John T. Spaulding 48.523

provenance / ownership history
Mary E. G. Duffee
to Frances Harold Duffee, her daughter, March 1894
Marion Nevil Duffee, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
to Colonel H. D. Hughes, Ardmore, Pennsylvania (through Rosenbach Company, Philadelphia), August 18, 1919
private collection
to the American Art Association, New York, January 28--29, 1926, #167, ill., as Mrs. Duffee
to John Levy Galleries, New York
E. D. Levinson, Cedarhurst, New York
Wildenstein & Co., New York, by 1933
to John T. Spaulding, Boston, Mass., 1934
to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, by bequest of John T. Spaulding, 1948

exhibition history
1948 MFA Boston: #7, as Young Woman Reading
1953 Munson-Williams-Proctor: #17, as Young Woman Reading, lent by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
1953 Syracuse MFA: #20, ill., as Young Woman Reading, lent by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
1954 Chicago AIC: #3, ill., as Young Woman Reading
1956 Mt Holyoke MA: #28, as Young Woman Reading, lent by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
1970 National Gallery DC: #6, ill., as Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading, lent by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
1973--74 Newport CA: #3, ill., as Young Woman Reading, lent by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
1978 MFA Boston: #3, ill., as Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading
1998--99 Chicago AIC: #7, ill., as Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading, lent by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Chicago only)

published references
Art News 1926d: p. 10, as Mrs. Duffee
Rewald 1946: p. 319, ill., as Woman Reading
Dame 1948: p. 38, as "Cassatt . . . among the . . . names"
Syracuse 1953: cover, ill., as Young Woman Reading
Art Digest 1954: p. 24, as Young Woman Reading
Monro and Monro 1964: p. 91, as Young Woman Reading (Woman Reading)
Sweet 1966: p. 38, as "woman reading"
Boston MFA 1969: p. 45; p. 298, fig. 472, ill., as Young Woman Reading
Hoopes 1972: p. 30; p. 31, ill.; p. 32, as Young Girl Reading
Pickvance 1973: p. 745, as "Mrs. Duffée (No. 47)"
Seldis 1974: p. 58, as Young Woman Reading
Yaegashi and Kashiwa 1978: p. 86, ill.
Love 1980: p. 21; pl. 7, ill., as Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading
Pollock 1980: pp. 7, 22; p. 37, ill.; pp. 66, 98, as Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa
Spassky 1985: p. 632, as Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa Reading
McQuillan 1986: p. 114, ill., as Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa
Bouillon 1988: p. 127, ill., as La lecture
Effeny 1991: pp. 13, 50; p. 51, ill., as Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading
Constantino 1995: p. 20, ill., as Young Woman Reading
Gruitrooy 1996: p. 15, ill., as Young Woman Reading
Pollock 1998: p. 133, ill., as Young Woman Reading
Dawson 2004: p. 52, as Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading

commentary

According to the files of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, this work once bore a label that stated "Presented to Frances Harold Duffee/by her mother/Mary E. G. Duffee in March 1894." There is no evidence as to the identity of the sitter, save for the first known published title from the 1926 American Art Association sale: Mrs. Duffee. The name of the consignor to that sale is not known, but it was probably not a Duffee family member, given that this is most likely the work sold by Marion Nevil Duffee through Rosenbach Company, Philadelphia, in 1919.[1] Therefore, it is not certain whether the 1926 identification of the sitter was given through a family history that traveled with the painting but has now been lost, or whether it was merely a guess made by the American Art Association cataloguers from the evidence of the Duffee family label.

Although Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading and Young Woman on Striped Sofa with Her Black Dog are among Cassatt's smallest completed compositions, they are not lacking in ambition. To the contrary, these works represent Cassatt's effort to assimilate the lessons in palette and subject matter to be learned from the French Rococo masters as she moved closer toward Impressionism. Though she had depicted a well-dressed woman involved in needlework in one of her earliest works, The Young Bride of about 1866–67, the women involved in similar leisure activities in these tiny 1876 paintings are far less stiffly posed and are convincingly set within a background. In Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading, Cassatt turned away from the somber tones of her Salon career (which were occasionally enlivened with bright accents of primary color), and began to experiment with the more high-keyed and even acidic palette found in the works of Rococo painters such as François Boucher, a palette that prefigures the color schemes that would come to dominate her Impressionist work. Furthermore, by placing a woman in a striped dress against striped upholstery, Cassatt in Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading anticipated the fascination with pattern that emerged in her images of the 1890s in particular.

PAI

[1] According to Greg Giuliano of the Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia, Rosenbach handled a work identified in that museum's files as "Mary Cassatt portrait," which seems most likely to be Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading.

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 sitting
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 sofa
 reading
 woman
 looking right
 blue
 dress
 lace
 collar
 book
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