This striking work is a watercolour version of the oil painting which Stanhope exhibited at the Grosvenor Art Gallery in 1888 (sold Christie's, London, 28 November 2001, lot 5, £180,000). It is slightly larger, and whereas the pine wood in the oil becomes darker as it recedes, here the tree foliage acts as a filter for the daylight, taking on a bluish hue that echoes the girls' dress.
Stanhope's oil surprised critics of the Grosvenor exhibition as it presented a rural scene without obvious mythological or allegorical adjunct. However the composition is characteristic of Stanhope. Like The Washing Place (sold in the Forbes sale of Victorian Art, Christie's, London, 20 February 2003, lot 295, £4,500) it depicts workers in an Italian landscape. Representations of the most integrated of rural practices, the peaceful character of these idylls is enhanced by the models' timeless appearance, and the rhythmic way in which natural and human forms interrelate.
Viareggio is a town on the shore of the Ligurian sea, due west of Lucca. In 1873 Stanhope moved to the Villa Nuti at Bellosguardo near Florence. There he developed his unique style: marrying the Pre-Raphaelite symbolism inherited from G.F.Watts and Edward Burne-Jones, and early European traditions such as mural painting.