Italienne à la Fontaine was repainted by Corot, who reused his original canvas in order to paint a rather sketchy landscape, depicting a man in a boat on a lake with a windswept tree beyond. For decades the original work was hidden until it was discovered in the laboratory of the Musée du Louvre. M. Aubert, the restorer of the Musée nationaux, carefully removed the overlying paint layers revealing the beautiful figural composition beneath. The only traces of the later overpainting to survive can be seen in the immediate vicinity of the studio stamp, where the green pigment is clearly visible. The stamp itself, applied to the canvas when it was a landscape, is the wrong way up for a portrait.
The restoration has revealed a delicate portrait of an Italian girl, dressed in a traditional costume. She fills a large pot from a fountain, while another figure can be seen in the background walking away carrying a water pot on her head. The outskirts of a town appear on the hills in the distance. Corot became increasingly interested in idealised portariture of this kind from the 1860s onwards. He would often paint these in his studio, and dress his models in costumes from his own collection of textiles. Corot did not exhibit these works in public, only showing them to his close friends. Nevertheless a market for such portraits quickly developed among sophisticated collectors. It was not until the retrospective of Corot's work held in 1875, however, that the beauty and breadth of his figure paintings came to the attention of the general public.
This work has been authenticated by Martin Dieterle.