NEW YORK - In 1877, when Edgar Degas invited Mary Cassatt to show with the Impressionists, she was one of three women and the sole American among them. Given her outsider status, Cassatt may have felt a kinship with another artist in the group who would become her mentor: Camille Pissarro. Born far from France to an unmarried Sephardic Jewish couple in 1830 on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, a Danish colony at the time, Pissarro retained his Danish citizenship throughout his life.

Camille Pissarro’s Les Vendanges. Estimate $350,000-550,000.

Cassatt’s public debut was in the Fourth Impressionist exhibition in 1879. Pissarro also participated, showing, among other works, several painted fans. Degas, who organized the exhibition, also showed fans, which were a recurring motif. In Paris at the time, there was a fascination with all things Japanese, from kimonos to woodblock prints and fans, which appear in a number of Impressionist pictures.   

Two fans by Pissarro will be offered in the Impressionist Day sale at Sotheby’s on 8 May. One of these, Les Vendanges, belonged to Cassatt, who received the work directly from Pissarro. She proudly depicted it in her own artwork, most notably in a portrait of her sister, Lydia. The fan remained in the Cassatt family, a testament to the artists’ mutual admiration.  

Cassatt's pride in the work is evident from the fact that it hung in her collection throughout her life.