Mary Cassatt

Painted for exhibition at the Esposizione di belle arti in Milan, this early work shows the influence of the young Mary Cassatt's extended European tour between 1871 and 1874. After a year and a half spent back in Philadelphia, Cassatt returned to Europe, visiting Rome, Madrid, Seville, Antwerp, and Parma. The choice of subject matter - a celebrant in Dionysian rituals swept up in religious mysteries - testifies to Cassatt's interest in classical culture. More significantly, the painting reveals the influence of the High Renaissance Northern Italian painter Correggio, whose works Cassatt had been commissioned to copy by the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh. The bacchante's pose echoes a figure of the Madonna by Correggio and was painted in his native region. Yet, for all its Italian references, the painting also evokes the warm tonality of Spanish Baroque painting, which Cassatt and other young artists - such as her Philadelphia compatriot Thomas Eakins two years earlier, not to mention many of her eventual French colleagues - were also discovering in large numbers during the second half of the nineteenth century. Cassatt moved to Paris in 1874, where she proceeded to abandon academic exercises such as this work in favor of scenes of modern life.
Date of Birth
Oil on canvas
24 x 19 15/16 in. (60.96 x 50.64125 cm.)
Accession #
Credit Line
Gift of John Frederick Lewis