In this unfinished study for the Portrait of an Elderly Lady (now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), Cassatt has created a spirited, summary sketch that vividly characterizes the sitter. The female subject is the same in both paintings, but the figure is positioned quite differently in each. Cassatt’s brilliant use of color and quickly applied brushstrokes contribute to the spontaneity of the Birmingham portrait, a trait that is somewhat lost in the finished painting.
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- Titles Etude de femme âgée en chapeau: fond rouge (Portrait of an Elderly Lady in a Bonnet: Red Background) (Proper)
- Artist Mary Cassatt, American, 1844-1926, active in France 1866-1926
- Medium oil on canvas
- Dimensions 31 3/4 × 35 1/2 × 1 in. (80.6 × 90.2 × 2.5 cm) frame (Charles Prendergast frame): 41 1/2 × 34 3/4 × 1 7/8 in. (105.4 × 88.3 × 4.8 cm)
- Credit Line Gift of the Mahdah R. Kniffin Estate, 1971.25
- Work Type painting
- Classification Paintings
- On View
- Inscription Verso, stretcher, upper left, black ink: B.M.A. / 71.25 Verso, stretcher, upper left, black ink: 109 Verso, stretcher, upper right, graphite: 7750 [50 underlined] Verso, stretcher, upper right, embossed blue wax: VENTE / COLLECTION Mlle X / 30 MARS 1927 / MARY CASSATT Verso, strainer, center left, red chalk: -41- Verso, strainer, center, black stamp: A.M. R [faded] / 12 Rue La Bees [faded] / 53 / TAKE [Illegible] / ART DECO[illegible] [illegible] Verso, strainer, center right, graphite on sticker: 53
- Provenance Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), Paris, about 1887; gift to her housekeeper Mathilde Vallet, Paris, in or after 1887; auctioned at her sale Vente Mlle. X, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 30, 1927, lot 53; purchased by Viola Roden Redin (1875-1947), Paris [see note 1]; inherited by her daughter Ella Lee “Mahdah” Redin Kniffin (1902-1953), Paris and Hartford, Connecticut [see note 1]; bequeathed to the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, but to remain with her husband, Leonard Dodd Kniffin, Jr. (1904 - 1971), until his death [see note 3]; on deposit to her husband, Leonard Dodd Kniffin, Jr., Hartford, Connecticut; received by Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, 1971
1. Affidavit of Lorol B. Rucker, niece of Viola Roden Redin (‘Auntie Gayle’), and cousin of Ella Lee Mahdah Kniffin, about 1980, page 2 and 3, describes the collecting practices of Viola Roden Redin, who: “became a patron of the arts, became personally acquainted, and indeed good friends, with a number of artists living in France at the time. Chief among the friends of Auntie Gayle and Mahdah in the 1920’s and 1930’s and 1940’s were the German-American artists, Carl Frederick Friesecke, his wife, Sadie, and his daughter, Frances, and the Chicago teacher and artist, Carl Werntz and his wife, Millicent… During the time period between approximately 1919 and 1940, a substantial number of paintings by Friesecke, Werntz and other artists acquired in France by Auntie Gayle and kept in the apartments maintained in Paris by Auntie Gayle and Mahdah. All of the paintings were acquired by Mahdah’s mother, my Aunt Gayle….” The Kniffin collection also includes another Cassatt painting from this sale, 199.188. A portion an original copy of the auction catalogue is in the object file for another Cassatt at the BMA from the Kniffin bequest (1971.26).