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Alice Levi Duncan
The present painting is in all likelihood preparatory to one of Mary Cassatt’s most ambitious and daring compositions, Young Women Picking Fruit, which was painted in 1891 at the Château de Bachivillers and is now in the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (Breeskin 197). In that work, the peasant woman wearing a wide-brimmed hat and seated on a bench, her arm raised and her hand bemusedly cradling her chin, is apparently the model who posed for the present painting. She is identified by Adelyn Breeskin only by her first name, Céleste.
A related half-length portrayal, Woman Holding a Zinnia (Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Breeskin 198), depicts the same figure as seen at right in the Carnegie Museum’s painting. Its dimensions are identical to those of the present canvas. Significantly, Breeskin catalogued the three paintings in sequence as nos. 196, 197, and 198.
In around 1899 Cassatt executed a full-length version of this composition as a drypoint etching. (see A.D. Breeskin, The Graphic Work of Mary Cassatt, A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1948, no. 168; and exhibition catalogue, New York, The Museum of Graphic Art, and elsewhere, The Graphic Art of Mary Cassatt, 1967 – 1968, no. 72).
According to Judith Barter, “Cassatt’s deepening interest in nature, and women’s relationship to it, coincided with a shift in her lifestyle, as she began after 1889 to spend more time in the French countryside, renting the Chateau de Bachivilliers, near Gisors… Increasingly she presented women and children in outdoor settings rather than in domestic or public interiors.” 
Although the work was painted in 1891 or 1892, according to the Cassatt Committee, the signature was probably added around the time the work was sold to one of her preferred dealers. This was a typical practice with the artist and can account for the heavily painted signature. Works that Cassatt sold to her other active dealer at the time – Vollard- were initialed, and those with full signatures were intended for Durand-Ruel.
 Judith Barter, Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman, Chicago, IL, The Art Institute of of Chicago, 1998, pp. 86-87