The Comité André Masson has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
In 1941, Masson fled France for the United States with his family, ultimately settling in New Preston, Connecticut where he would live for the remainder of World War II. On their journey, they stopped in Martinique for a three week sojourn where they would meet up with André Breton. Masson’s drawings from the Caribbean isle presage the themes that would occupy his paintings of the 1940s with the interweaving of human figures and the natural world. His arrival in America marked a new phase of his work, which he termed Tellurism. Masson explained, "It was in the United States that I began to paint in the way which I ambitiously call chthonic, belonging to the subterranean forces…I didn’t abandon Surrealism but I gave it a new meaning, telluric” (quoted in C. Lancher, “André Masson: Origins and Development,” André Masson, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1976, pp. 163-164).
With the Telluric series of paintings, Masson achieved a harmony between draftsmanship and color with form highlighted intensely by opposing colors. The autumnal color palette of La belle Italienne creates a stained-glass effect with glowing outlines juxtaposed against the deep terracotta background. Masson said the pictures of this period were “symbols of blooming and germination. But aggression and destruction have their place there too: the assault of the caterpillars, devouring insects” (quoted in D. Ades, André Masson, Barcelona, 1994, p. 23).
Masson's work of the early 1940s was enormously influential on American artists, Pollock above all. As Kirk Varnedoe commented, "He [Pollock] was almost certainly interested…in the kind of liquefied figuration employed by the Frenchman André Masson, partially through the "automatic" technique of spilling in and sand… Masson's looser line, which conveyed a dreamy sexiness that was more disembodied and indirectly evocative, had rhythms that were more adaptable" (Jackson Pollock, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998, p. 37).