Professor Theodore Reff has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Until Lemoisne began to explore the contents of Degas' early notebooks in the 1920s, it was widely believed that the artist's attraction to landscape was a development which came late in his career. In fact, the early notebooks reveal a powerful interest in landscapes, which is more surprising in view of the fact that Degas, like many of his young contemporaries, learned his craft under the all-pervasive influence of Ingres, whose preoccupation with the discipline of classical line was inimical to the broader, more painterly treatment required of landscape painting.
In his catalogue for the 1994 exhibition Degas Landscapes, Richard Kendall points out the importance of Degas' friendship in the early 1850s with Grégoire Soutzo, an obscure landscape painter of Romanian origin, who introduced Degas to the beauty and freshness of Corot's landscapes. Soutzo also shared with Degas his enthusiasm for the 17th century landscape painter Claude Lorrain. By the time Degas departed for Italy in 1856, he was ready to absorb the classical landscape tradition, as had Claude Lorrain, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and countless other French artists who made the journey before him.
A similar drawing (Fourth Atelier Degas Sale, lot 71b) is dated 'Tivoli, 1857,' and it is very likely that Degas drew the present study around the same time. In these works the artist incorporates his characteristic linear approach to drawing within broader patterns of light and shade.