This painting likely dates from Duncan Grant’s second visit to Florence in 1907, where he spent much of his time at I Tatti: the home of the connoisseur Bernard Berenson, in the nearby village of Settignano. Grant’s introduction to Berenson is thought to have come through his cousin, Elinor Rendel (née Strachey), who was staying there. The artist arrived at I Tatti most afternoons; took part in mixed bathing parties in a lake surrounded by trees and was smitten by the beauty of the local scenery, the fountains, the marble balustrades, cypresses, and vistas of blue hills.
Grant’s letters from this period speak of his frequent trips to the quarries of Settignano, a place inevitably linked in his mind to Michelangelo. Settignano was the site of the Buonarroti family’s ancestral home, and where, according to his biographer Vasari, he imbibed his skills as a sculptor in the milk of his wet nurse, the wife of a stonecutter in the nearby quarries. Frances Spalding writes that while here, Grant ‘slept under the trees, suffering terribly from mosquitoes and eating black bread and drinking black wine. Despite these hardy conditions, it was a romantic experience, especially when the moon rose over the vast, deserted caves held up by monolithic pillars’.