Considered one of the most innovative late nineteenth-century American painters, Frank Duveneck first developed his spontaneous and lively approach to painting while studying in Munich in the early 1870s. There he attended the prestigious Bavarian Royal Academy of Art where he experimented with new techniques inspired primarily from the Dutch and Flemish seventeenth century masters, most notably Frans Hals. The foundation of this development lies in Duveneck's exposure to portraiture by Hals, where he emulated the Dutch master's quick, broad strokes of color without the usual blending and careful details of earlier traditions. "Duveneck was uniquely suited to this new style, both because of his precocious skill with the brush and his temperament, which was more suited to brilliantly executing a study of a head in a day than to the careful production of a typical academic piece." (D.T. Young, Frank Duveneck (1848-1919) Virtuoso of the Brush, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1999)
In 1879, Duveneck traveled to Italy and was immediately immersed in the beauty and splendor of the ancient cities and of the new artistic styles emanating from the Impressionists in France. "Within weeks Duveneck began to experiment with the bright, multicolored palette that signaled a stylistic metamorphosis of great promise." (R. Neuhaus, Unsuspected Genius, The Art and Life of Frank Duveneck, San Francisco, California, 1987, p. 67) Duveneck met and developed relationships with James A. M. Whistler and John S. Sargent, which had a direct affect on his artistic revival. Where Whistler was influential in Duveneck's decision to create etchings, a medium in which he excelled, it was Sargent who induced his transformation from the dark, rich palette of his Munich years, to that of bright, colorful and airy compositions inspired by the picturesque surroundings. In Italy, Duveneck enjoyed his most prolific years capturing on his canvases the beautiful architecture, countryside and genre scenes. In genre, his main focus were native working class Italians, especially "peasants, water carriers, shop girls, washerwomen, dockmen, and gondoliers, all involved in their daily chores." (Unsuspected Genius, The Art and Life of Frank Duveneck, p. 81)
The Florentine Girl, is perhaps one of the most successful of Duveneck's beautifully executed genre scenes from the height of his Italian years. Contrary to Duveneck's early works where he uses quick brush and simple, almost unfinished, compositions, the present work reveals a carefully rendered, highly detailed intimate view into Italian peasant life. The work depicts an exotic Italian beauty dressed in colorful native dress as she sits on a sunlit table, surrounded by a wide variety of potted flowers. Duveneck uses fine and smooth brushstrokes and muted color to create the foundation of the composition and breaks into quick, rich strokes of bright color bringing life to details throughout the figure and in beautiful varietal of potted flowers. There are few works to have remained in private hands from Duveneck's Italian years and the present painting is a rare and extremely exceptional example from this important period of the artist's life.