Catalog of the Fine Arts Collection
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Etienne Adolphe Piot (1850-1910), French Italian
This charming portrayal of a young Italian peasant girl holding a basket of ripe cherries is typical of French genre painter Etienne Adolphe Piot's work during the 1870s. The artist, however, painted the composition in two different forms: one in which the sitter is a girl, as here, and the other in which the sitter is an attractive, engaging young woman. The difference in tone between the two types of sitter is considerable, as the latter version takes on a sexual dimension that is absent in this composition.
An unexpected discovery regarding Piot's career is his possible Confederate sympathy, no small concern in America in the wake of the Civil War. The artist painted undated portraits of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson that suggest he had contacts in the South and was entrusted to create likenesses of two of its most admired military leaders. Given that Piot's Italian Girl with Cherries hung with pride of place in Horace Fairbanks' living room, we can only speculate that Fairbanks was unaware of any Confederate leaning.