Notes and Observations

Unadorned Young Woman (4 x 4-1/2)
Young Woman with Mantilla (7 x 9)
Young Woman with Garnet Earrings (4 x 4-1/2)

Unadorned Young Woman Young Woman With Mantilla Young Woman with Garnet Earrings
Hypothetically, these young women and the leaning youth are familia; the young women introduced to Homer by way of the youth and hence in-sync with the artist’s established pattern when securing models.
In a recent New Yorker article (July 12 & 19, 2010) “The Mark of a Masterpiece,” one historic art critic is on record for determining authenticity – “Rather than search a painting for its creator’s intangible essence," he argued, "connoisseurs should focus on minor details such as fingernails, toes and earlobes, which an artist tended to render almost unconsciously,” and while debatable that Winslow Homer ever laid any brush stroke unconsciously, zoom-in here on these young women’s earlobes and the mantilla-model's translucent fingernails.
These private portrait studies may represent experiments with nineteenth century photo-realism, never intended for sale, let alone exhibition. In particular, two of the young women (their Christian names penciled lower right) appear to be domestics; almost certainly Gloucester Portuguese, painted in the summer of 1880. An evolving watercolorist, Homer often lamented his lack of opportunity to detail faces. At this juncture, painting for himself, he stays committed to palette, yet the “splotchy green complexions” (a major criticism of his 1877 red-haired girl series) are diffused by broad daylight and natural shadow and Homer showcases the persona of each sitter – their handsome hardness and moral freshness. Nevertheless, as his soon-to-come depictions of Tynemouth/Cullercoats fisher girls confirm, he had come to terms with an acceptable (i.e. saleable), if somewhat formulaic face. Mantillas are a recurring theme in Homer’s art from the circa 1867 unsigned oil Portrait of Pauline through the 1885 watercolor The Governor’s Wife, Bahamas Islands. It is noted, the Young Woman with Mantilla could be the mysterious gypsy girl featured in Homer’s 1876 oil Shall I Tell Your Fortune?. Further note, the mantilla model and the unadorned young woman could be one and the same person.

Notes & Observations Fan-shaped Landscape Shoreline Reflection Youth Leaning on Chair Young Women Sitting Boy Mask with Books Mannequin Further Study