Italian Peasant Boy is the most refined and idealized of several paintings of Italian models by Hunt. This one was made in Paris, probably in the fall of 1866, and was exhibited in October 1867 at the Exposition Universelle under the title Petit Italien. It exemplifies the solitary, rustic...
Italian Peasant Boy is the most refined and idealized of several paintings of Italian models by Hunt. This one was made in Paris, probably in the fall of 1866, and was exhibited in October 1867 at the Exposition Universelle under the title Petit Italien. It exemplifies the solitary, rustic Italian youth, a subject that had become almost an international icon in Hunt’s time, especially for artists of Romantic-realist tendencies. This composition is a variant on a well-worn theme explored by both American and European painters. Some of the sensuality and precision of Hunt’s picture are borrowed from the French academic manner, that of William Bouguereau[08.186] in particular. A preparatory charcoal drawing, Italian Boy [50.3917], which shows the model with longer hair, a cape, and staff, suggests that Hunt first intended to portray the boy as a shepherd. Hunt did not need to be in Italy to be reminded of Italian peasants or to paint from Italian models. He kept Italian peasant costumes in his Boston studio and young Italian males were themselves a common sight in most major cities by the 1860s. Migrants from the mountain towns of Tuscany and elsewhere, they engaged themselves as artisans and peddlers before returning home. These young men, aloof from the mainstream of city life, may have inspired Hunt to create an homage to the transient, self-reliant, worldly innocent. This text has been adapted from Diana Strazdes in The Lure of Italy: American Artists and the Italian Experience, 1760–1914, by Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., et al., exh. cat. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1992).
Lower left: WMHunt./1866 [WMH in monogram]
1866, the artist. By 1873, Francis Skinner, Boston; by 1924, by descent to a cousin of Eliza Gardner (Mrs. Francis) Skinner, George Peabody Gardner (1855-1939), Boston; 1929, gift of George Peabody Gardner to the MFA. (Accession Date: December 5, 1929)
Gift of George Peabody Gardner